Royal Conservatoire of Scotland entrepreneur awarded up to £45K in inaugural enterprise fellowship programme

A pioneering arts practitioner at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) has been recognised for his entrepreneurial spirit in a new nationwide enterprise programme.

Stephen Roe, production manager at Scotland’s national conservatoire, will receive up to £45,000 grant funding plus one-years’ business development from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) to take his business to the next stage.

The Enterprise Fellowship and funding will allow Stephen’s company Stageport Ltd to build a national database of laser scanned locations and provide an online platform that brings venues, producers and technical teams together to visualise their work more effectively. The fellowship programme also provides a year-long intensive business development package which includes mentoring and access to professional, financial and entrepreneurial networks.

Stephen is one of 20 entrepreneurs announced as the inaugural RSE Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellows. They are the employers of tomorrow, innovating for the future, and complete the 40 entrepreneurs participating in the £4million Unlocking Ambition Challenge, delivered by key stakeholders from Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as part of the Scotland CAN DO initiative, backed by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. There are two strands within the Unlocking Ambition Challenge – the RSE Enterprise Fellowship programme is for 20 earlier stage start-ups who will be hosted by a number of Scottish universities or research institutes, led by the RSE. The second is a scaling development programme for 20 successful SMEs led by Scottish Enterprise.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Creative entrepreneurs have such an important role to play in Scotland across economic and social contexts, as well as helping us find new ways to improve the way we live and work. The environment here at the Royal Conservatoire is one that encourages creativity and curiosity and it is wonderful to see a member of our team recognised as one of our first cohort of RSE entrepreneurs. We wish Stephen all the very best as he takes his business to the next level.”

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – one of the world’s top performing arts education institutions – is also a busy arts venue, staging more than 500 performances every year. Stephen, who is responsible for managing Conservatoire productions, said he’s thrilled to be one of the RSE’s inaugural fellows: “It’s fantastic, and very exciting to have this opportunity.

“Initiatives like this are vital for developing ideas and building sustainable businesses here in Scotland and it’s great to have the Royal Conservatoire’s support to commence the fellowship business development programme. Deborah Keogh, the RCS Knowledge Exchange Manager, encouraged me to apply for the fellowship and she has been a fantastic champion of the project within RCS and with external organisations. Deborah’s expertise and knowledge of funding programmes like Unlocking Ambition has been vital to getting the company’s potential recognised by RSE. Thanks must also go to RCS for providing seed funding back in 2016 through their Athenaeum Award, which allowed me to develop the initial concept.”

Stephen, who worked for touring companies including Scottish Opera before he joined the Royal Conservatoire five years ago, added: “The idea is based on a problem that I have encountered over many years in planning productions. There is often a lack of good venue information available to touring companies and no consistent industry standard in place. My ambition was to build a database with every Scottish touring venue captured, and share the data amongst companies to make their journeys easier when planning and producing performances.”

He researched emerging visualisation technologies and looked into how laser scanning is utilised by other sectors such as architecture, engineering and construction: “Stageport’s innovation is to apply laser scanning and visualisation technology to our design and production process. We have identified a combination of software that allows teams to visualise every stage of the production process, and where clients can see design concepts within each venue, on any mobile or desktop device.

“Stageport subscribers will be able to see how their productions work in any touring location, and it allows companies to visualise the challenges venues present. Creative and technical teams can virtually be anywhere on stage or in the auditorium and can import their set designs to work out sight lines, extract dimensional information and inspect the venues’ infrastructure. Our visualisations also include additional critical details like weight tolerances, electrical systems, stage systems and venue access information. It makes things more time and cost effective, helps teams solve technical problems in advance and allows designers to visualise their concepts within the venue and improves the overall production quality. Not only do I want to build a comprehensive database of venues for touring networks but I also want to help our industry to understand the potential of visualisation technology and how it can assist our work.”

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, said: “Applications for Unlocking Ambition opened in March this year and only three months later, with the addition of the RSE Enterprise Fellowship entrants, this first cohort is ready to begin its journey. This demonstrates the appetite for growth and the innovation potential of businesses in, or wishing to locate in, Scotland. They are showing faith in our vision for the Scottish economy and we will ensure that through Scotland CAN DO our business support and the business environment is the best in the world.”

Edward Cunningham CBE FRSE, Chairman, the Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship Programme, commented: “We have the potential and we have the ambition to enable innovation in Scotland’s future investment and internationalisation. The RSE will draw upon our strengths and multidisciplinary expertise‎ to match the ambition and ingenuity of the Unlocking Ambition programme to work with our new Enterprise Fellows to develop and launch new businesses and help them become outstanding entrepreneurs.”

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