Paper Advance sat down with Mr. Stéphane Renou, President and Chief Executive Officer of FPInnovations, to discuss his new role.
PA: Congratulations on your new appointment. How do you feel about your first position working in the forestry sector? What skills and assets do you plan to bring to the job?
SR: Thank you! I’m thrilled about returning home. To me, part of Canada’s richness lies in its innovation capacity and in the unparalleled quality of its resources: natural and human. The forestry sector is at a critical juncture: there’s a thirst for innovation now more than ever. Developing innovation requires the desire to inno- vate along with an open mind to acquire new approaches from other industries and apply them in the forestry context to advance its particular needs. My role is to accelerate this momentum and help FPInnovations continue to innovate and establish alliances devoted to the pursuit of a common goal: a brighter and more sustainable future.
One particularly important skill I developed in my career is the ability to build bridges to create a common language that promotes co-creation across multiple fields of technology and business. I aspire to foster a team environment where we challenge ourselves, each other, and the status quo. From my perspective, this kind of an environment is welcomed and encouraged! I believe that a non-conventional, non-hierarchical environment is the perfect setting that allows for sparks of new ideas and the development and adoption of new ways of thinking and of doing things.
PA: You have an impressive background of research and development, as well as entrepreneurship. How will these experiences lend themselves to the work you will do for FPInnovations?
SR: Much of my work over the past 17 years focusing on R&D and managing operation teams has helped me better understand the issues of technological transfer in industries seen as traditional and conservative. Acquiring external tools and expertise and applying them in our industry is essential for the future of forestry.
PA: What do you hope to achieve in the next year? The next five years?
SR: Over the next year, we will work closer with all our partners, improve efficiency and improve value creation as highlighted during the recent survey that FPInnovations launched in 2017. To do so, we are focusing on supporting our members’ and the industry’s current and future needs within a highly collaborative environment. We have collected critically important information through this survey and are now working to interpret this feedback and build a concrete action plan that reflects the input we received.
Over the next five years, FPInnovations will be the leading partners to facilitate the transformation of the industry. We’ll bring in key new technologies, attract new talent, and establish new alliances. By doing so, we will create an environment of world-class experts that encourages the exploration and transfer of new ideas to our members and partners.
PA: How important is collaboration with industry partners? With academia? With government? How do you ensure that FPInnovations is making the right connections and establishing the types of relationships that are critical to its success?
SR: Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do, whether it’s with our members, the government, the industry, or universities and colleges. FPInnovations plays an important role in supporting the effective transfer of technological innovation and research that results from the collaboration of universities and colleges, to industrial applications of our members and partners. This is key to bringing the best innovation and value propositions to the industry.
In this vein, I see FPInnovations’ role as one of a catalyzer. The relationships we build fit and integrate perfectly with our vision of a world where sustainable, forest-derived products are part of all aspects of our daily lives.
PA: How do you see FPInnovations’ role in broader objectives of addressing climate change, or reducing our carbon footprint?
SR: Climate change and environmental considerations are transforming the revolution that the industry is in the midst of. New rules apply that we need to address together. The forestry sector is a significant part of the solution in sequestrating carbon in forest and forest- based products and in creating low-carbon solutions through bioproducts and biofuels. In collaboration with our partners, we’re developing clean and innovative technologies that reduce carbon emissions and that have a positive impact on the environment through solutions and technologies that include: Mid-rise and tall wood buildings, TMP-Bio, Biomaterials, efficient forest operations… and the list goes on.
PA: What opportunities do you see for FPInnovations in the government’s recently-announced New Clean Growth program?
SR: This new Natural Resources Canada program aims to solve pressing environmental challenges and create economic opportunities for Canada’s natural resource operations through the development of new clean technologies. FPInnovations, in partnership with our members, collaborators, and with the federal and provincial governments, has spearheaded the development of technologies that will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas: enhancing energy use and productivity as well as producing low-carbon advanced materials and bio-products. Technological projects such as TMP-Bio, BELT, Lignin, Hybrid Trucks, Cellulosic Nano Materials, and mill energy optimization are examples of projects that could be fast-tracked through new investments.
PA: How do you feel about the geographic location of FPInnovations headquarters? Is the physical disconnect between the institute and where the majority of mills and plants are located, a challenge? How much of a role does travel play in a position such as yours?
SR: I’ve led teams located across the world. With today’s IT technologies, distance is becoming irrelevant. Diversity of locations brings diversity of culture along with a better understanding of local and regional industrial realities.
This said, traveling and personally connecting with people is imperative for me – it builds trust in a relationship. Our presence across Canada through our support net-work allows us to be as close as we physically can to our members. Once trust is established, tools such as video conferencing provide us with additional means to maintain and grow our relationships, effectively and efficiently.
PA: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
SR: People. Working with people and then seeing them become leaders in their fields. Witnessing their successes and knowing that my support has somehow had a positive impact on them.
PA: What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
SR: My family. Managing to reconcile work and family life. My family has always followed and supported me. They are my rock!
PA: In 100 words or less, what message would you like to provide to Paper Advance readers as you take to the helm of this dynamic organization?
SR: FPInnovations is evolving and increasing its focus on developing the best innovation value proposition for the forest-based industry. We all need to evolve more rapidly to support a constantly changing world and its needs. This can only be achieved through collaboration within and outside of the industry. Speed and excellence call for all of us to join forces and work together to reach our common goal: a brighter and more sustainable future.
This article was originally published by PaperAdvance
Tuesday, 06 February 2018