Inventor Recognition

Empty event space ready for recognition event

Innovation and discovery have always been a proud part of the University's history. We celebrate the achievements of UMN researchers and the breakthroughs that result from their efforts.

In collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Research, we host this event to honor the outstanding faculty and staff from the University research community. As part of this event, we announce the winners of the Innovation Awards—a set of peer-nominated awards that recognize researchers for their contributions at various stages in their careers and in the commercialization cycle. See videos of past Innovation Award winners.

Innovation Awards

The Innovation Awards recognize the accomplishments of outstanding University innovators who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit, are actively engaged in developing new innovations and transitioning those technologies to the commercial market and have made an impact on society.

Early Innovator

Early Innovator award recipients are non-tenured faculty or researchers (graduate student, postdoc, Researcher 6/7) who demonstrate an ambitious entrepreneurial spirit and are actively engaged in developing new innovations and moving those technologies to the market.

Entrepreneurial Researcher

Entrepreneurial Researcher award recipients are faculty or researchers (graduate student, postdoc, Researcher 6/7) who display an exemplary entrepreneurial spirit by their initiative to not only innovate new technologies but to also move those technologies from the University laboratory to the market.


Impact award recipients are researchers whose innovation has positively and broadly impacted global society. The importance and impact of the innovation is readily understood by those outside of the nominee’s scientific discipline. Innovations with a potential for significant impact may come from but are not limited to the following areas: health, food, safety, education, communication, and economic development.

Committee’s Choice

The Committee’s Choice Award was created in 2017. This award is conferred based on the Award Selection Committee's recommendation--not specific criteria. The Committee's Choice Award recognizes an outstanding researcher, duo, or group nominated in any category that the committee deems worthy of an award of excellence. It recognizes the fact that successful innovations reach the marketplace through widely varying business models and may not require traditional IP protection strategies, such as patenting.

2019 Innovation Awards

Early Innovator: Branden Moriarity, Medical School

Entrepreneurial Researcher: Jian-Ping Wang, College of Science & Engineering

Impact: Jim Luby and David Bedford, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Committee’s Choice: Kenneth Beckman, U of M Genomics Center; Daryl Gohl, U of M Genomics Center; Dan Knights, College of Science and Engineering

2017 Innovation Awards

Impact: Perry Hackett, College of Biological Sciences

Committee's Choice: Amy Hewitt, College of Education and Human Development

Early Innovator: Mikael Elias, College of Biological Sciences

Entrepreneurial Researcher: Marc Hillmyer, College of Science and Engineering

2014 Innovation Awards

Early Innovator: Kechun Zhang, College of Science and Engineering

Entrepreneurial Researcher: Daniel Voytas, College of Biological Sciences

Impact: Robert Vince, Academic Health Center