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 Conditions. In 2017, the state appropriated another $4 million per year for a fifth research areaCancer 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 150 departments and dozens of colleges across three campuses (Twin Cities, Duluth, and Morris).

See more MnDRIVE at 5 program milestones and highlights.

FY 2019 Highlights

  • There were 101 people hired for MnDRIVE projects this year.
  • During FY2019, researchers involved in MnDRIVE work disclosed 59 inventions for patents or licensing and received more than $86M in funding, of which $7.2M came from business and industry.
  • More than $1,177,081 was awarded for MnDRIVE infrastructure, including:
    • State of the Art SIFT-MS for a Center for Volatolomics. SIFT-MS applications span multiple fields from disease diagnostics through breath analysis in healthcare, odor based pesticides in agriculture, aroma and odor detection in security and defense, quorum sensing in microbial interactions research, and pheromone studies in behavioral and social sciences.
    • OptoActive headphones that are used with 3T and 7T scanners, to reduce sound by 60 dB. The headphones help to improve imaging success rates in sleeping infants, studies of young preschool and school-aged children, and patients with neurodevelopmental/psychiatric disorders.

Highlights data from fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019)

Notable Successes

Robotics - Professor Michael McAlpine’s team is using one-of-a-kind 3D printers to create life-like organs that can be used in surgery practice and a bionic eye with sensor that could someday help the blind to see.

Global Food - An invention originally developed to detect contamination in food led to the creation of a UMN startup company, Claros Technologies, which uses the technology as part of a water filtration system that removes toxins, such as mercury and phosphorus, from waterways.

Environment - UMTC & UMD researchers have identified an anti-biocorrosion enzyme as an alternative to widely used toxic copper oxide paints. Field scale testing has been promising, and researchers are currently exploring commercialization opportunities in partnership with BASF.

Brain Conditions - Neuromodulation Fellow Dr. David Darrow is leading a clinical trial researching ways to restore voluntary movement and control of autonomic function to people with spinal cord injury (SCI). The study involves an implanted stimulating device and app tools to collect data and allow the team to optimize the stimulation protocol for each patient.

Cancer Clinical TrialsIn FY2019, with help from Minnesota Masonic Charities, Cancer Clinical Trials opened the first UMN investigator-initiated interventional clinical studies at 15 sites across Minnesota.