Parade Profile: Stephen Ainger (BSc Physics with Geophysics 1974)

Posted in: Parade profiles, Science

Stephen attended the University in its early days and now holds a range of non-executive roles, having retired as CEO at Partnerships for Renewables. He tells us about his career in energy, living across the globe and setting up University Radio Bath... 

Why did you choose to study at Bath?  

I chose Bath as a university at which to study physics as, unlike Imperial and others at that time, Bath had a small intake for the course. My class consisted of 30 of us – not over a hundred, as it was at other institutions! 


Did you have a particular career in mind when you chose your course?  

No, I simply enjoyed applied physics, and that was as far as it went until I started looking at options in my final year.  


Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? Any favourite memories, or places to go on campus and in the city?  

Bath in 1970 was a new university and it seemed you could do anything you wanted. Nothing was preordained; it seemed anything was possible. A group of us designed and built the radio station, University Radio Bath, which was one of the first in the country.  

I remember writing to record companies for records to play, and the station (then known as URB 963) opened in 1973. Obtaining our Home Office broadcast licence, with kit all built by us, was a real challenge.  

After a year of broadcasting, we managed to get BBC Radio 1 to broadcast from the Uni bar during my finals. All in all, we must have laid a couple of kilometres of feeder cable on rooftops around campus, together with about 30 aerials in the various residential blocks. And not a mention of health and safety! 


Describe your career journey since graduating. What is a typical day like in your current role?  

I started with BP Exploration looking for oil largely in South America. I lived in Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Spain and Kuwait across 15 years of my total 24 years with BP. 

I left BP as Head of Strategy and Planning before joining the board of Transco (at the time part of British Gas) and then the Lattice Group (then a FTSE 50 company). I then moved on as CEO of the not-for-profit bank Charities Aid Foundation, which had £2 billion of assets, before leaving to set up Partnerships for Renewables as CEO (largely focusing on wind turbines onshore in the UK). 

A typical day for me at Partnerships for Renewables had my time split between construction and operation of wind farms, winning planning consents and managing investors. During this time, I was also Non-Executive Director of the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust. 


How did your studies help you to develop professionally? 

Numeracy was essential in all my roles. The physics I learned during my degree, especially acoustics, was key in my very early career. 


What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath?  

Make the most of being at university! Studying is key, but it’s not everything. 

Posted in: Parade profiles, Science

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  • Hi Steve,
    Its a long time ago now but it was great to see your article in Parade Profile. Great to hear what you've been doing since 1974. I spent my career in the nuclear industry. I have some graduation photos of us (where did all the hair go!!) so send me an email if you fancy a catch-up.
    Best wishes,
    Chris Orr