New science executives at Scion

22 July 2020

Scion has boosted its senior management with three new roles that will increase science input at the executive table.

Chief Executive Julian Elder announced the appointment of Tara Strand, Roger Hellens and Florian Graichen as general managers for each of Scion’s three research impact areas.

Dr Elder says once Scion completed its strategy refresh earlier this year the next step was looking at how to implement the strategy.

“Successful delivery on our strategy relies on leadership and organisational design. We reviewed our executive management team structure to ensure it is aligned with our strategy and that science has a strong voice in healthy debate and future direction,” he said.

Dr Tara Strand is Scion’s new General Manager for Forests and Landscapes. This impact area covers forests predominantly planted for permanent forest purposes.

Tara, currently Scion’s Rural Fire Research Leader, leads high impact research in rural fire and biosecurity. Her strategic thinking and drive to co-design research and translate science into information and tools for use by stakeholders and the public led to her involvement with the Biological Heritage Challenge as a member of the Interim Science Leadership Group and co-lead of the Ngā Rākau Taketake Tools for management of kauri dieback and myrtle rust. Tara led the successful Urban Toolkit project, which won the Biosecurity Science Award in 2018. Her experience in rural fire research led her to become a member of the Science Lead Team for the Frontier Development Lab Bushfire Dataquest, a NASA and ESA sponsored event.

Prior to working in New Zealand Tara was an Air Quality Engineer for the US Forest Service, where she specialised in understanding plume transport in complex environments. She helped to develop and launch several smoke emission tools, including the BlueSky Smoke Modeling Framework, a modelling framework used in the USA, Canada, Portugal, South Korea, and now New Zealand to simulate smoke and pollutant transport. Tara also helped to reduce the cost of protecting old growth Douglas-fir trees by modelling and demonstrating a new method for deploying anti-aggregation pheromone.

Dr Roger Hellens is Scion’s new General Manager for Forests to Timber Products. This impact area is about growing forests to produce high-value trees for high-value timber manufacturing and products.

Roger is a life scientist with over 30 years’ experience leading and conducting industry-oriented transdisciplinary research. In 2014, Roger joined Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and worked as a researcher in the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, holding several leadership positions as Professor of Agricultural Biotechnology and Deputy Executive Director of the Institute for Future Environments (IFE).

From 2000 to 2014, Roger worked for the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research. He held several senior roles, including leading the institute’s genomics research programme and kiwifruit breeding programme.

Before moving to New Zealand, Roger worked at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, where he developed the first genetic map of pea. Roger received a PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of East Anglia in 1995 and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Liverpool in 1989.

Dr Florian Graichen is the new General Manager for Forests to Biobased Products. This impact area is about growing forests to be used for biobased manufacturing and products.

Florian has been promoted from his position as Scion’s Science Leader for Biobased Polymers and Chemicals. This research area aimed to solve new product and process challenges that arise through transition into a new economy focused on sustainable design and renewable resources. He will continue as Co-Leader of a Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge (SfTI) Spearhead around 3D and 4D Printing.

Florian was a former Senior Scientist and Commercial Manager at VITO (Belgium) and CSIRO (Australia).

Dr Elder said Roger and Florian took up their new positions on 20 July, and Tara will start on 27 July 2020.

“I am very pleased to have these three outstanding scientists join our Executive Management Team."