Katherine Albion Takes Over as Executive Director of the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park

January 2, 2018

Sarnia Observer (January 2, 2018) - The Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park has a new executive director.

Tuesday was Katherine Albions first day at the helm of the incubator for emerging tech companies and research centre for industrial heavyweights.

Im excited, said the engineer and former head of the parks commercialization centre.

Shes taking over for outgoing executive director Tom Strifler, who is staying on for the next few weeks to help with the transition, Albion said.

The research park is currently in a very strong position under Toms leadership the last few years, she said. Weve grown tremendously; weve got a strong occupancy rate and a high number of graduates.

The park is about 95 per cent full with nearly 40 tenants on site, she said.

About 12 companies using the park for research have graduated over the last few years, she said, meaning theyve honed their ideas and processes to the point where they can be taken to market.

One of those is Nova Chemicals, which recently announced $2 billion to build a new plant in St. Clair Township and expand its existing Corunna site, said Mike Bradley, chair of the County of Lambton Community Development Corporation that runs the research park.

He offered thanks to Strifler and congratulations to Albion.

Who I think will do a fantastic job taking (the park) to the next level, he said, noting her strength is helping companies foster their ideas.

If they dont develop to commercialization, the benefit is limited, he said.

Albion, a London native and Western University graduate with a doctorate in engineering science, said her vision for the park located at the former Dow Chemical headquarters in Sarnia is growth.

That includes working with key partners like Lambton College, Western University, the city, Lambton County and the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, she said.

Well look to develop new sectors for the region, bring in new innovation, and just bring in some new opportunities to facilitate some growth, she said.

Occupancy has rebounded from an all-time low of about 40 per cent after the research park lost a major call-centre tenant in 2012.

Its the only research park in Canada with lab pilot plant infrastructure, Albion said, noting the park also won the Outstanding Research Park Award from the Association of University Research Parks in 2016.

She started working at the park in 2008 as a commercialization engineer.

Weve also been ranked highly on the international scale through our university business incubators, based on the performance of our tenants at the centre, she said.

There are conceptual plans to expand the park sometime in the future, she said, but no construction plans yet.

California-based Origin Materials, meanwhile, is setting up a pilot plant on site, Albion said. The company is using bio-based materials like wood chips and cardboard to produce building-block chemicals used to make plastics and other products.

Its aim is to make biodegradable water bottles, said Bradley.

Theyll be starting trials in the very near future, Albion said.

And we also are continuing talks with some new lab and pilot plant tenants as well as some commercial tenants.

- Tyler Kula, Sarnia Observer