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Murray McLaughlin named to Bio-economy Top 125 list

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One of the leaders of efforts to grow Canada and Sarnia-Lambton's, bio-industry presence has earned recognition from those working in the sector.

Murray McLaughlin, executive director of Sarnia-based Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, is listed in the Top 125 People in the Advance Bioeconomy, complied by the readers and editorial board of Biofuels Digest.

Also on the list are the U.S. agriculture and energy secretaries, as well as scientists, policy makers and several bio-industry CEOs, including Jean-Francois Huc of BioAmber, a Montreal-based company starting up a bio-succinic acid plant in Sarnia.

"Murray has been instrumental since day one in creating the cluster we've been trying to create here with BioAmber, with the research park, and has just been an excellent person to work with," said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.

Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC), based at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park in Sarnia, is working to see Ontario and Canada become a leader in turning farm and forestry byproducts into energy and chemicals.

Sarnia-Lambton officials have been working for several years to position the community as a leader in the bio-economy and the decision by BioAmber to locate in Chemical Valley was an early success.

Bradley said officials have been working to create the idea that "this is the place" to be in the growing bio-industry sector.

Having McLaughlin, and Huc, make the list "is sort of like having a couple of hall of famers from the bio-hall of fame in your community," Bradley added.

"The word is out there."

Bradley added that it's often overlooked that the Biodustrial Innovation Centre is a national organization located in Sarnia "for the very purpose of developing the bio-fuel industry.

Huc was listed 44th, and McLaughlin 98th, on the list complied recently by Biofuels Digest.

"It's kind of nice to have the recognition," McLaughlin said.

The list is circulated around the North American bio-industry where it gets the attention of those working in the sector, he said.

"Seeing people from Sarnia on there certainly doesn't hurt us at all."

Alexander Marshall, chairperson of the BIC board, said in a press release, "This award recognizes Murray's outstanding contribution to global collaboration and growth of Canada's bioeconomy."

Murray is a New Brunswick native who earned a Ph.D. at Cornell University and went to work in London in the mid-1970s at the agricultural division of Eli Lilly Canada.

He went on to hold posts in Ontario and Saskatchewan, where he served as that province's deputy ministry of agriculture and the first president of Ag-West Biotech, an organization that built a cluster around agriculture and bio-technology in Saskatoon.

McLaughlin returned to Ontario in the late 1990s and later settled on a farm near Tillsonburg when Sarnia-Lambton officials came calling a half dozen years ago when they were looking for someone to lead an effort to create a cluster of green and sustainable bio-chemistry companies.

In 2014, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada announced $7 million in funding assistance to support BIC's BioProducts Agriculture Science Cluster program to generate new business opportunities and build bio-product clusters.

BioAmber received early funding support through BIC's investment program.

McLaughlin attended the 2015 Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference last week in Washington where those on the top 125 list were recognized.

"We certainly are looking for the next BioAmber," McLaughlin said about BIC's current efforts.

"At the conference last week there was probably a good three or four companies that are starting to have interest in Sarnia, as a possible location."

McLaughlin said it's "early days" in those discussions, but added, "Hopefully, we'll at least be able to land one of them over next 12 or 18 months."

The group is also focused on developing a proposal to bring a mill to to Sarnia-Lambton that would convert corn stalks, or stover, to sugar, McLaughlin said.

"Sugar is the feedstock for a lot of these companies that want to make bio-based chemicals, so if you've got the ability to produce sugar it's one more reason why people should be looking at the Sarnia-Lambton region."

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