Published: Jan. 16, 2009

Veteran executive to lead MSU bioeconomy business startup services

Contact(s): Ruben Derderian Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resourc office: (517) 432-1676

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Entrepreneurs in biofuel, alternative energy and other nontraditional agriculture products now can tap a Michigan State University specialist for startup advice.


The MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources named Ruben Derderian associate director with responsibilities for bioeconomy businesses. Derderian brings more than 30 years of executive-level experience, including expertise in strategic planning, competitor analysis, product development and launch.


“In my new position, I will be focusing on nontraditional agricultural products such as burning biomass for energy, commercial production of cellulosic ethanol, using new sensor technology to monitor irrigation water and food crops for pathogens, and alternative energy such as wind generation of electricity," Derderian said. “There are a lot of new bioeconomy technologies being developed and one of my roles will be to help entrepreneurs define their needs and connect them with the appropriate resources at MSU or other places."


Derderian has been a management consultant for startup and niche companies; president and CEO of medical technology company Draeger Medical Inc., in Telford, Pa.; president of the U.S. subsidiary of Switzerland-based Leica Inc. and Leica Microsystems, in Deerfield, Ill.; president of Sharpland Lasers, a New Jersey medical device company; and a vice president of Zeeland-based Herman Miller Inc. and Spacelabs Medical Inc. of Redmond, Wash.


"I'll help entrepreneurs think through their business plans and strategies," he said. “Once an entrepreneur gets to the commercialization stage, there are a number of logistical issues he or she faces. I've been there and I've done that, and I know I can help people be successful."


Founded in 2003, the MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources has helped more than 600 clients develop and commercialize agriculture and natural resources products. As Michigan expands its role in the bioeconomy, adding a position to focus solely on the bioeconomy made sense to Product Center Director Chris Peterson.


"The Product Center has great success in serving its traditional clientele in food, agriculture and natural resources," said Peterson, who holds the Nowlin Chair of Consumer-Responsive Agriculture. "But, we know that bioeconomy ventures are going to have bigger scale, more advanced technology and more formal venture capital needs than we have dealt with normally. Ruben's background perfectly fits our needs in serving these types of sophisticated ventures. And besides all that, clients will find him a great coach to work with on venture development."


It also made sense to Steve Pueppke, director of the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies.


"The OBT is delighted to partner with the Product Center to assist Michigan entrepreneurs who want to help create the bioeconomy in our state and the Great Lakes region," Pueppke said. "Ruben brings impressive business credentials to the job, and we are looking forward to having him as part of the team."


Derderian's position is funded by the Office of Biobased Technologies and MSU Extension.


For more information on the MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, visit


For more information on the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies, visit:




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