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New director cultivates forest bioproducts for markets.

When Robert Deline was growing up on a New Liskeard dairy farm, nobody used ginseng or naturally grown herbal remedies to cure what ailed them.

As the new executive director of the Northern Ontario Commercialization Initiative (NOCI), he'll be the driving force to help cultivate the region's natural assets and build a biotechnology-based economy around innovation in forestry, mining and health care.

Deline knows first hand about opportunities in the global bioeconomy.

A search committee lured back the Laurentian University graduate from Seoul, South Korea where he was working as a pharmaceutical consultant as well as running a food exporting company.


With extensive experience in the international pharmaceutical industry, he'll be lending his knowledge to inject a new spirit of entrepreneurialism for a potentially unlimited emerging Canadian economy.

"I sometimes tell friends that if the South Koreans had 50 per cent of the assets that we have, they would have twice our standard of living in 10 years."

NOCI, which was originally launched as the Northern Ontario Biotechnology Initiative (NOBI), is one of 12 Regional Innovation Networks (RINS) in Ontario funded by the Ministry of Research and Innovation.

RINS are focused on the commercialization of products identified from particular regions. NOCI is concentrating its efforts towards the forest bioproducts, mining and medical sectors.

While valued for his international connections, Deline was selected by a search committee for his diplomacy skills.

"He's very good at working with different groups and cultures," says Errol Caldwell, executive director of Science Enterprise Algoma based in Sault Ste. Marie. Caldwell was part of a six-person selection committee of economic development officials searching for a director to lead the pan-Northern network.

"He's quite good at consensus-building which is his particular strong suit. That's going to be very important in a rather diverse Northern Ontario economy."

Deline is responsible for developing a network of entrepreneurs and researchers to fast-track the commercialization of leading-edge technologies and homegrown assets like medicinal plants, forest foods, biofuels and chemicals from the research labs and the bush into the marketplace.

With 22 years of experience working in sales, marketing and product development for multi-national pharmaceutical giant Boehringer-Ingelheim, he brings to the job a thick resume from job postings in Germany, East Africa, Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea.

He's worked as a CEO for a United States pharmaceutical start-up, and worked extensively as an industry consultant doing investor analysis. Later, based in Seoul, he also started his own food manufacturing and exporting company producing Kimchi (fermented cabbage) which grew to 70 employees.

"I was told by everyone I was crazy, even my (Korean) wife. But sometimes entrepreneurs are often the type of people that don't see the negative side. We just blindly go on and we can't see ourselves failing."

When he was offered the NOCI position, it wasn't a tough sell to come home to be closer to his parents in northeastern Ontario.

Deline has set up his office at Canadore College in North Bay, an ideal spot, he says, for networking with other regional research networks in southern Ontario.

For all his real-world experience and in-depth knowledge of vitamins, natural health products and nutraceuticals (foods with health or medical benefits), Deline admits the job poses "a helluva challenge" to move NOCI from a concept to a functioning organization with a marketing roll-out anticipated for mid-2007.

There's extensive travel involved, but Deline says there's also "strategic issues" to get past parochial attitudes and develop a cohesive region-wide network.

Among his first tasks is naming sector specialists in the areas of bio-medical (Thunder Bay) bio-mining (Sudbury) and bio-products R & D (Sault) to offer high-level expertise in linking business with the research community.

Leon Magdzinski, a bioproducts expert, has already been hired as a specialist working out of the Great Lakes Forestry Centre in the Sault. He'll be responsible to help industry and the private sector with bio-based economic development projects throughout the North.

"But most importantly, we're going to have to be an expert sales team," says Deline. That means developing a package strategy to bring small business and government innovation officials to the table.

"I will be pushing very hard with the provincial agencies to have more of a concentrated, unified marketing program. That kind of support is necessary if we're going to be successful." (Science Enterprise Algoma)


Northern Ontario Business
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Article Details
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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