Former Solutions Lab leader Joeri van den Steenhoven steps down to return to the Netherlands

TORONTO, May 1, 2017 – MaRS Discovery District today announced that Alex Ryan has joined MaRS as the new VP, Systems Innovation and Program Director of MaRS Solutions Lab, replacing Joeri van den Steenhoven, who is stepping down after leading the initiative for four years.

Alex is an internationally renowned expert and leader in systemic design. Most recently, he was co-founder and senior adviser of CoLab inside the Government of Alberta, which is widely recognized as a leading government innovation lab in Canada. There, he trained over 1,000 civil servants and executed over 75 design projects.

Originally from Australia, where he completed his PhD in Applied Mathematics on Complex Systems Design, he started his career helping the Australian Department of Defence to modernize its operations. He then joined Booz Allen Hamilton to lead the development of design for the US Army, setting up military design teams for the US Joint Staff, US Strategic Command, and US Cyber Command. He also led the development of the US Army’s design methodology.

In 2014, Alex came to Canada, where he joined the Alberta Government to start CoLab in the Department of Energy to help re-think the energy system there, but quickly scaled its reach across the entire government. As of this year, he is also an Executive in Residence at the Rotman School of Management, where he has developed a new systemic design course. He is a member of the Advisory Committee for the PCO Innovation Hub in the Government of Canada. He has also advised different governments, corporates and other organizations around the world on applying systemic design.

“While we are of course sad to see Joeri leave, we are excited to have Alex join MaRS and the Solutions Lab team to build on the great foundations Joeri and the team have put in place,” said Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS. “He brings strong expertise, a global network and a track record of making change in complex systems. He is the dream candidate we had in mind, and we are sure he will bring the lab to the next level.”

“I am excited to join the executive team of MaRS and lead the MaRS Solutions Lab. The lab approach is now accepted across Canada as a way to make progress on complex problems. Now we must scale success to meet Canada’s most important challenges,” said Ryan. “The Solutions Lab is uniquely positioned to convene innovation leaders across all sectors to create enduring systems change.”

Joeri van den Steenhoven, who has decided to return to the Netherlands, steps down as VP, Systems Innovation and Program Director of MaRS Solutions Lab after leading the initiative since its inception four years ago. Joeri was the first Director of MaRS Solutions Lab, and as a member of the executive team helped to develop a more strategic approach to systems innovation for MaRS.

“I am very proud of how MaRS Solutions Lab has established itself as a platform for government, corporates, academia and not-for-profits to work together on Canada’s most complex challenges, like regulating the sharing economy, reforming the health system or tackling youth employment. We convened 3,000+ stakeholders and helped create some breakthrough solutions,” said van den Steenhoven. “We have supported and trained 2,000+ people, teams and organizations across Canada, and we have presented our approach to 25,000+ people. When I arrived in 2013, innovation labs like Solutions Lab were virtually unknown. Today, there is a rapidly growing field of 40+ innovation labs across Canada, many of which we have helped build and continue to support,” he said.

“Globally, the notion of systems change is gaining ground, with MaRS Solutions Lab as a leading practitioner. Inside MaRS, we developed a new approach to systems change to help adopt innovation faster. And with the lab, we supported several MaRS teams on a variety of programs and events, several of which have become landmark initiatives in their own right. This important work will continue. MaRS has embedded systems innovation in its strategy, and the Solutions Lab is ready for its next phase. I am sad to leave, but I am happy to go back and onto new adventures, and I expect to stay connected because MaRS is such a special place with a wonderful team and mission,” said van den Steenhoven.

“Joeri joined us in 2013 from the Netherlands to set up and lead a critical new initiative, the MaRS Solutions Lab, which was funded by a very generous $10M gift,” said Treurnicht. “At the time, the lab approach was a very new concept in Canada. We are incredibly fortunate that Joeri joined us at that stage to help build this new program and, importantly, build our capacity for systems innovation, bringing his exceptional talent and unique experience in Europe to MaRS. He and the Solutions Lab team have since advanced the capacity of many others in this field – a real contribution to our country. Thanks to Joeri and his team, MaRS leads in the ‘lab’ space, pioneering and even actively building this emerging field. Joeri has put MaRS on the map locally, nationally and globally.”

“The Lab and systems thinking are now key differentiators for MaRS, and are increasingly recognized as important tools to help diffuse innovation for the benefit of society. I know that MaRS as a whole, and the specific initiatives inside MaRS that have been influenced by the Lab, are better and stronger today because we have this thinking at our core. Joeri’s contributions to MaRS extend well beyond the Lab: he has advised and supported many of us in our own work, even giving us new language to describe what we do; he has greatly contributed to the new MaRS strategy, especially on the demand side of innovation; and as a member of the executive team, his thoughtful and strategic input helped prepare MaRS for its next phase of growth. I am absolutely delighted that Alex will now pick up the baton and work with this talented team to further strengthen our ecosystem’s capabilities to tackle system-level innovation challenges. He will be a great addition to MaRS,” said Treurnicht.

Alex Ryan will start on June 19, 2017, after finishing his current assignments. In the interim, Jerry Koh will lead the MaRS Solutions Lab.

MaRS News Desk