Martin Yuill will step down as the head of Charlottetown-based Emergence life sciences incubator next month to head the new Cleantech Commons in Peterborough, Ont.

Under Yuill’s leadership, Emergence has grown into a business development support organization for biotech companies inside and outside Atlantic Canada, and has built up a portfolio of 73 Canadian companies. He is departing as the organization aims to develop more of a presence in each Atlantic Province. He will leave Emergence Feb. 28.

The next day, Yuill will become the founding Executive Director of Cleantech Commons and his mission will be to convert what is now an empty 85-acre field into a thriving research and entrepreneurship centre for clean technologies.

“While it is with a heavy heart that I will be saying goodbye to my many new friends and colleagues in Atlantic Canada, I am honoured to have been tapped for this exciting new opportunity.,” said Yuill in an email to stakeholders this week.

A native of South Africa, Yuill came to Charlottetown in 2016 to join the PEI BioAlliance as its head of accelerators and incubators and to build out Emergence. The BioAlliance in 2014 had received funding for the incubator from the federal government’s Canadian Accelerators and Incubators Program, or CAIP, and wanted to build a facility that could nurture life sciences companies on P.E.I. and beyond.

With Yuill at the head, Emergence evolved into a facility that aided a core of companies in Atlantic Canada, and other companies across Canada to build out its network. About 65 percent of the companies are pre-revenue and 45 percent of them are headed by women, Yuill said in an interview.

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With CAIP funding expiring in March, organizers are working on the next generation of Emergence. The goal is for Emergence to have personnel in each of the four Atlantic Provinces, to develop common mentorship programs across the region and help to harmonize support provided by the provincial biotech groups.

Meanwhile, Yuill will be launching the new facility near Trent University with the goal of growing it into Canada’s premiere CleanTech facility. His initial job will be to oversee construction of the first building on the site, negotiating its financing and finding its first tenants. He hopes to achieve that within a year. He will have to begin developing a network for the new park, ranging from the financial community in Toronto to academics at the neighbouring university.

“This is an exciting time for Cleantech Commons,” Leo Groarke, President and Vice-Chancellor of Trent University, said in a statement.  “Martin brings a wealth of experience in launching community economic development initiatives and the commercialization of university research.”

Yuill has previously worked in the innovation space in Peterborough (as well as Kelowna, B.C., and South Africa), which helped in winning the top job at Cleantech Commons. In an interview, he said the new opportunity only came together over the holidays.

Yuill is optimistic about the outlook for bio-science companies in Atlantic Canada and believes their ecosystem will be strengthened if an enlarged Emergence works with the local biotech organizations.

Said Yuill: “With the strengthening of a key program like Emergence across the region…you’re really pulling together the collective elements that will have an exponential impact on the bioscience companies.”


Disclosure: Emergence is a client of Entrevestor.