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Expanding MnDRIVE research at the U

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Over the past two years, MnDRIVE—Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and Innovation Economy—has allowed the University of Minnesota to further develop areas of research strength and work directly with industry partners to advance innovation. The $36 million recurring investment by the state of Minnesota targets four key research areas (brain conditions, robotics, environment and global food) that address grand societal challenges.

Each of the four research areas has had significant successes across the University system and has also worked collaboratively with the other areas through transdisciplinary projects. Notable accomplishments by participating faculty and staff across all areas include:

  • Leveraged $76 million in external funding from private, public and nonprofit sources
  • Submitted disclosures for 143 new inventions and launched three startup companies
  • Engaged more than 225 external partners, including 3M, Boston Scientific, Syngenta, Tonka Waters and Toro
  • Hired 442 faculty, students, fellows and staff
  • Published 1,500 research papers

As we look to the next biennial budget year, we are exploring expanding the MnDRIVE program to include new areas. Like the current initiative, which will continue to support work in the four previously identified areas, the expanded MnDRIVE program will aim to match U of M research expertise with the state’s key industries. Today we also have the Grand Challenges identified for the Twin Cities campus strategic plan, and we expect that the next phase of MnDRIVE will include Grand Challenges-related research, both directly and indirectly.

The MnDRIVE advisory council and leadership are considering new areas of research to explore, and ultimately present to the Legislature in January 2017, and are seeking input from faculty and project partners. Some of the ideas that have been suggested to date include:

  • Aging
  • Data analytics/big data
  • Health care policies/strategies/delivery
  • Health disparities/health equity
  • Immigration/integration
  • New medicine pipeline
  • Precision medicine
  • Translation in sensory sciences
  • Vaccine development and policy
  • Workforce

While it hasn’t been determined how many new areas will be recommended for support, right now, leaders would like to get as much input as possible and will be reaching out in various University forums in the coming weeks for suggestions. In general, areas of consideration should be broad (not project or field specific); should be suited to transdisciplinary partnerships; and should have a clear industry or community partner tie.

Please submit comments and suggestions for new MnDRIVE research areas to Michelle LaRue, MnDRIVE research associate, at larue010@umn.edu by June 30, 2016.

Erin Dennis

Erin Dennis

Erin is assistant communications director for the Office of the Vice President for Research and senior editor of Inquiry. 

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