July 4, 2016 – Paul Morden, The Observer – There has been a changing of the guard at a Sarnia-based agency that works to help green and sustainable bio-industries set up shop in the community and across Canada.
Murray McLaughlin, executive director of Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC), has stepped down and Sandy Marshall, formerly chairperson of the agency’s board, has stepped into the job of heading the agency based at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park.
McLaughlin was recruited to be the first executive director of the agency formed in 2008.
McLaughlin said he raised the issue of a change in the leadership approximately a year ago, once new funding for the agency was in place.
Earlier this year, Ontario announced $3 million over four years for BIC.
“Six years is about the right time for running one of these organizations, and then it’s good to bring in some fresh thinking,” McLaughlin said.
The New Brunswick native earned a PhD at Cornell University and spent several decades helping agricultural-based technology get to market while working for Eli Lilly Canada, as a deputy minister of agricultural in Saskatchewan, the first president of Ag-West Biotech, president of Ontario Agri-Food Technologies and as a consultant.
He was building a home on a farm in Tillsonburg when officials from Sarnia-Lambton came calling.
They were looking for someone to lead an effort to create a cluster of green and sustainable bio-chemistry companies that would create jobs while complementing Sarnia-Lambton’s long-established petrochemical economy.
With seed money from the federal government, Bioidustrial Innovation Canada went to work helping new bio-technology companies get their products to market.
“I think we’re getting there,” McLaughlin said about BIC’s mandate to help establish a bio-industrial cluster in Sarnia-Lambton.
“We’re certainly put Sarnia on the map as a bio-economy location.”
BIC’s accomplishments include helping attract BioAmber to Sarnia to build its first commercial scale plant, and leading an effort that resulted in a proposal for a local facility to turn corn stalks and leaves, and wheat straw, into sugar.
“Murray is an outstanding individual,” Marshall said.
“You’ll never meet a more honest and respected person, anywhere.”
Marshall said McLaughlin has grown BIC into what it is today, and built international relationships for the agency.
“Everybody around the world, who is in this space, knows us and what we’re doing,” Marshall said.
“And, that’s all thanks to Murray.”
Marshall said he’s thankful McLaughlin has agreed to stay on with BIC to help with government and partner relations.
“I’m very thankful he’s going to be around to continue to support and mentor me, as I try to fill his shoes,” Marshall said.
Marshall was been on the BIC board since it formed in 2008, and was its chairperson for the last three years.
He spent three decades working in industry and was president of Lanxess Canada when he left that post in 2013.
“I really fundamentally believe in the value the BIC brings,” Marshall said.
“It’s a big driver of economic development in Canada, and particularly it has been very successful around Sarnia.”
Taking on the job “is a way for me to continue supporting the community,” Marshall said.
He said the agency’s focus remains on “cluster building” and working to “build out the economy, like we’re doing in Sarnia.”
Its short-term focus is to expand the cluster of bio-chemical companies in Sarnia-Lambton, with a longer-term goal of seeing more clusters created around Ontario and Canada.
“Our vision statement is to create jobs and economic value, sustainably, for Canada,” Marshall said.
“I think that speaks to what we are trying to accomplish, in the long-term.”
It’s challenging for young start-up companies to move from the stage of piloting new technology to commercializing it, Marshall said.
“Being able to support them with our network of people, our relationships, our knowledge and our investment fund, helps give them a better chance of being successful.”
Bill White, a retired president of DuPont Canada, will be taking over as chairperson of the BIC board.