Dr Stephen Churcher
Dr Stephen Churcher
Born February 9, 1967; Died August 30, 2013
Dr Stephen Churcher, who has died in a cycle accident aged 46, was at the height of an international career of enterprise and innovation in engineering which promised to overcome some of the well-documented problems of wind power.
Dr Churcher, who described himself on his Twitter page as "Entrepreneur, parent, Grand Canyon kayaker, performance improvement enthusiast, lover of wild places, adventure sports and good food", was also a devoted family man and a keen sportsman. He gave leisure time to manning a safety boat to support swimmers at Gullane triathlon, organised a slalom event for Forth Canoe Club and also took part in charity triathlon and cycling events.
At home he relaxed by teaching himself new skills, such as playing musical instruments and learning languages and was always on hand to help his children Kay, 17 and Mark, 15, with their homework - although he was sometimes accused of distracting them by playing the bongos or bass guitar.
The Edinburgh University honorary fellow was working, at the time of his death, on technology which could help to deal with the ups and downs of wind, by increasing the efficiency of battery systems to make it easier to store power at blustery times.
The technological advances Dr Churcher and his team were working on also have applications for making hybrid and electric cars, and electric bicycles more effective.
He also had a key role in a European consortium called Runsafer, which was developing a running shoe with embedded electronics to collect information that could be used to help to prevent injury and to improve training.
Dr Churcher was educated at Lasswade Primary and High School where he was awarded the title of Dux. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a first class honours in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 1989 and completed a doctorate sponsored by British Aerospace in 1992.
For the next seven years he worked with American technology firm Xilinx, mainly as a project leader in the field of integrated circuits, also known as microchips which are found in all electronic devices. Soon, he was managing an engineering team in California as well as a design team in Edinburgh, and during this time he was awarded three US patents for integrated circuit design.
In 1999, he co-founded an Edinburgh University spin-off with a Finnish firm, called Elektrobit(UK) which worked on designs for applications such as Bluetooth and WiFi.
In 2003, he took over the integrated circuit part of Elektrobit and brought it into a new company. In August last year he won funding from Scottish Enterprise and angel investors to create prototypes of high power lithium ion battery systems.
At the time, Dr Churcher told The Herald the device would be useful in "assisting the renewable energy industry in the challenge they face in matching generating capacity to grid load demands."
The name of the company of which he was managing director was Dukosi, adapted from the Nepalese whitewater river Dubh Kosi. The name was inspired by Dr Churcher's passion for canoeing, a sport he discovered at the age of 15 on a PGL holiday in Wales; as a schoolboy he represented Scotland in the Scottish Canoe Association team at a canoe polo event.
Dr Churcher continued to love the sport and participate in it whenever he could. He may have been the only man in Scotland to drive a Porsche Boxter that fitted a roof rack capable of carrying a kayak. He also made trips abroad and particularly relished his travels to the Grand Canyon for white water kayaking. He loved the peace and tranquility of the Canyon, relished the challenge of the river and said he felt a sense of culture shock coming back to civilisation.
Dr Churcher was married to a fellow scientist, Linda Churcher, whom he met at the age of 25 at a course for PHD students in Sheffield. The Churchers were a close family and Stephen's parents Chris and Ron were near neighbours at their home in the Midlothian village of Bonnyrigg.
Daughter Kay delivered a moving eulogy for her father to a packed funeral at Warriston Crematorium in Edinburgh. She said: "Every day when he came home from work, the door would close and I would run from wherever I was in the house yelling, "Daddy's home!" I would take a flying leap and hug him. It started out as a joke but over time it became a daily show of affection that we both looked forward to and that I will miss terribly."
She added: "He loved my Mum so much. I remember being surprised that they were engaged after courting for only nine months and were married nine months later. He said to me, "Well, when you know, you know." They showed their love to each other every day. Despite jokes about them embarrassing me, they never did. I was proud to have such loving parents."
He is survived by wife Linda and children Kay and Mark.
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