MnDRIVE—Minnesota’s Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy—is a partnership between the University of Minnesota and the State of Minnesota that aligns areas of research strength with the state’s key and emerging industries to address grand challenges. In 2013, the State of Minnesota authorized an $18 million recurring annual investment in four research areas: Robotics, Global Food, Environment, and Brain ConditionsIn 2017, the state appropriated another $4 million per year for a fifth research area: Cancer Clinical Trials.

The University of Minnesota Informatics Institute (UMII), which fosters and accelerates data-intensive research, receives partial funding from MnDRIVE and provides key support to these projects. Other areas that receive recurring funding from MnDRIVE include technology commercialization and research infrastructure.

MnDRIVE represents a unique, collaborative research model involving interdisciplinary research projects across the University that address grand challenges and include industry and community partnerships as a key component. Each of the research areas have committees and advisory boards to provide guidance on research objectives.

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) provides accountability measures for the initiative and helps advocate for the program at the state capitol.  Success metrics are tracked across all research areas to assess the impact of MnDRIVE research, education, and industry relationships on economic development and quality of life for Minnesotans.

Since its inception, MnDRIVE research across the five research areas has involved more than 1,200 researchers in more than 115 departments and dozens of colleges across three campuses (Twin Cities, Duluth, and Morris).


  • Of the 247 people hired for MnDRIVE projects this year, 45 were a direct result of the activities of 35 MnDRIVE faculty.

  • During FY2018, researchers involved in MnDRIVE work disclosed 74 inventions for patents or licensing and received more than $55M in funding, of which $3.9M came from business and industry.

  • More than $340,000 was awarded for MnDRIVE infrastructure, including a FACSCelesta Flow Cytometer upgrade on the St. Paul Campus.

Highlights data from fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018)

Notable Successes

Robotics - The University leveraged $2M in MnDRIVE funding to raise an additional $11M in private donations to renovate Shepherd Laboratories for the Robotics Lab. This in turn will lead to additional federal funding for robotics research.

Global Food - Deep-winter greenhouse prototypes in five communities across greater Minnesota—Finland, Bemidji, Pillager, Madelia, and Lake City—aim to provide access to fresh, local greens for more Minnesotans year-round.

Environment - Researchers in the BioTechnology Institute are developing a sustainable method to remove toxic metals, such as arsenic, from contaminated soil using plants paired with a soil microbe that incorporates the toxins into the plant tissue. Plants can then be harvested and burned to collect the metal instead of much more costly methods of soil removal and long term storage.

Brain Conditions - A new interdisciplinary Neuromodulation Medicine Fellowship will provide advanced medical and research training in neuromodulation to physicians in a variety of fields. One of the only programs like it in the US, the fellowship will draw candidates from a national pool and will help to advance the U's overall neuromodulation program.

Cancer Clinical Trials - By the end of 2018, MNCCTN sites had enrolled a total of 95 patients onto 22 unique cancer clinical trials. The trials span lung, breast, GI, prostate, and other cancers.

Download the 2018 MnDRIVE Success Metrics.