Paper industry exec Troy Runge will lead Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative

Troy Runge, currently research director at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, has been named director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative (WBI), a public-private partnership in bioenergy research, outreach, training and economic development based in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Runge’s position is supported by a gift to WBI from the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation.

As WBI director, Runge will work with the group’s steering committee, including representatives from industry, state and federal agencies and the university, to foster synergies between public and private bioenergy efforts.

“Bioenergy offers the potential for new jobs in life sciences, manufacturing, technology, forestry and agriculture,” says Molly Jahn, CALS dean. “Wisconsin’s leadership in this field was recognized last year when the Department of Energy picked UW-Madison as the site of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center—one of the largest research grants in the history of our campus. With Troy’s leadership, WBI will be the catalyst, ensuring that Wisconsin’s public and private sectors put forward the very best ideas in this field and remain front-and-center as the federal government looks for new opportunities to invest in energy technology.”

Runge’s appointment will help further Governor Doyle’s vision to make Wisconsin a national leader in groundbreaking research in clean, renewable energy, according to Judy Ziewacz, executive director of Wisconsin’s Office of Energy Independence. “I look forward to working with Troy to bring the coordinated research and knowledge of the UW System to the work of the Office of Energy Independence,” Ziewacz says.

Runge’s business skills and scientific experience will help him provide leadership in the wide range of activities that WBI undertakes, says Tim Donohue, director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and acting WBI director. “To be successful we need to be leaders in innovative science, educating the workforce of tomorrow, growing an economy to employ these individuals and informing policy to bring forward economically viable and environmentally responsible programs.”

Runge says that he is inspired by the work done by the WBI and CALS. “Growing our economy in a sustainable way is one of the great challenges of our time. I believe accelerating the development of bioenergy to replace fossil fuel dependence is the key to meeting this challenge,” says Runge, who will also hold a faculty appointment in the UW-Madison Department of Biological Systems Engineering.

“Our grant in support of the WBI embodies the entrepreneurial spirit the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation embraces and will have an enduring, positive impact on both the economy and environmental health of the state of Wisconsin,” says Steven Skolaski, Rennebohm Foundation president.

“The Wisconsin’s Bioenergy Initiative is critical to help develop solutions to meet the state’s future energy needs,” adds Gary Wolter, chief executive officer of the Madison Gas and Electric Co. “Troy Runge brings an outstanding combination of academic and industry experience to lead this initiative.”

Runge earned a B.S. degree from UW-Stevens Point and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Institute of Paper Science and Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He will assume leadership of the WBI on May 1.

More information about the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative is available online at