A HEALTHCARE manufacturer has become one of the latest Scottish firms to move into employee ownership.

Virginia Lucey, who founded E&O Laboratories in 1990, said the decision to transfer the company’s shares into an employee ownership trust will “enhance the business longevity, secure jobs for the future, and ensure our culture remains progressive, fair and non-corporate”.

E&O was established in a rural location west of Bonnybridge where it built its reputation for harvesting and selling donor animal blood to NHS bacteriology laboratories throughout the UK. In 2013, it invested heavily in a new facility in Cumbernauld and extended its farming activities into West Lothian, with the new space allowing the company to plan, build and design a media manufacturing operation, including a temperature-controlled warehouse and logistics hub.

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But it has not all been plain sailing. E&O faced a huge challenge when the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020 and 80% of its microbiology orders stopped overnight. Faced with furloughing staff and dwindling production, the company reinvented itself to focus on virology reagents, which involved new formulations, tubes, swabs, labelling, packaging, quality control testing and compliance criteria.

However, despite Covid restrictions the company said it broke all previous sales records and helped to contribute to the global response of the worldwide pandemic, running three shifts with 170 employees.

Further expansion came in 2022 when E&O established itself in the south of England, with a new southern distribution hub ultimately going live last summer following investment in a cold room storage and warehousing equipment in an industrial unit in Reading.

The company now 70 employees and turns over £5.5 million.

Ms Lucey said: “We have an experienced young diverse management team at the helm and a loyal workforce who all enjoy operating in a modern team environment. I felt it was time to hand over more leadership responsibility to the staff who will continue to build our strong brand.

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“After careful consideration, it was decided that the option of transferring ownership to the employees using an employee ownership trust would benefit each and every employee. I believe this is a very positive decision that will enhance the business longevity, secure jobs for the future and ensure our culture remains progressive, modern, fair, and non-corporate.”

Ms Lucey will has no plans to leave E&O further to the transfer of shares, and remains managing director. She will take up a position on the board of employee ownership trust, alongside fellow director Judith Dawkins (financial director) and three employee trustees: Dr Douglas Cameron (technical manager), Ann Turner (administration manager) and Alan Kelly (operations manager).

Ms Dawkins said: “We are a very diverse business, with a unique working environment/culture which has driven our success. Virginia has demonstrated great vision in taking this path. Employee ownership will allow us to continue to grow and innovate whilst securing local jobs.”

There are now nearly 200 employee-owned firms in Scotland.