The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) in Sudbury is set to welcome a new chief executive officer this summer, and Don Duval brings with him a background in science and engineering, punctuated by a passion for business.
Currently serving as a client services and corporate strategy specialist with the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, Duval will start his new role on July 9. He replaces long-time CEO Darryl Lake, who retired at the end of March.
“The NORCAT board of directors is looking forward to working with Don with his unique experience and enthusiasm,” board chair Dan Kochanowski said in a news release announcing the appointment. “Don is a dynamic leader who has demonstrated tremendous success. His leadership will be an asset to NORCAT.”
The foray north will be the first for Duval, who hails originally from Chatham. Though his educational background is in chemistry and civil engineering, Duval said his real passion is in the “intersection between research, capital and business.”
Duval serves as the Toronto chair for the Manning Innovation Awards, sits on the advisory boards for the Canadian Innovation Exchange and Spin Master Innovation Fund, and is a past recipient of the Governor General of Canada’s Canadian NCE Young Innovators Award.
He additionally serves as an adjunct professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Engineering and is an executive board member for the Queen’s Players Toronto Theatre Company, the Nepali Children’s Education Program and JUMP Math.
In his capacity as a consultant, Duval has worked all over the world, but he felt the pull to the North after recognizing the value in Sudbury’s assets, amongst which he counts its academic institutions, its creative and cultural sector, its strong engagement with all levels of government, and its thriving business community.
“I really believe that the assets in the community of Sudbury really have the components to demonstrate to the world how a region of less than 200,000 people can contribute to the economic and social prosperity, not only to the region, but also to the country more broadly,” he said.
As he takes over the reins at NORCAT, Duval said his initial focus will be familiarizing himself with NORCAT, its team and core values, in addition to conferring with stakeholders to get insight into their perspective of NORCAT and its role in the community.
“My main goal is to listen to the stakeholders, listen to the community, listen to the customers, engage the team that’s currently at NORCAT and disseminate all that and use it as the fundamental basis to put together a strategic plan moving forward,” he said.
Whether northern companies and businesses face greater challenges because of their geography is something Duval believes he can glean from those conversations.
Despite working most recently in Toronto, Duval noted he’s spent two thirds of his life living in city regions with populations of less than 100,000 people. So, while he has worked within the breadth and diversity offered by a large city, he also brings with him experience interacting in smaller communities and understands there can be fundamental differences between the two.
“I think it’s an important personal attribute of mine to understand that there are cultural, social and business differences between larger centres and smaller city regions,” Duval said. “And I think you have to accept and understand that in the region that you’re operating in.”