MnDRIVE at 5

Proudly celebrating five years of successful research partnership with the State of Minnesota.

MnDRIVE (Minnesota’s Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy) is a unique, collaborative research 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, as well as some of its most important challenges. In 2013, the State of Minnesota authorized an $18 million recurring annual investment in four research areas: RoboticsGlobal FoodEnvironment, and Brain Conditions. In 2017, the state appropriated another $4 million per year for a fifth research area: Cancer Clinical Trials.

Nearly $100 million in state funding was allocated to MnDRIVE in its first five years, helping to attract faculty who are leaders in their fields, hire research staff, renovate lab spaces, purchase equipment, and conduct world class research with direct relevance to the residents and industries of Minnesota. In that same period, MnDRIVE supported over 400 interconnected research projects of Health, NASA, and the Department of Energy and industry leaders like 3M, Boston Scientific, the Midwest Dairy Association, and PepsiCo.

The program has supported the University’s climb up the rankings in natural sciences research, while also providing opportunities to educate tomorrow’s high-tech workforce, including a successful partnership with the North Star STEM Alliance, which provides research internships for students from underrepresented minorities.

The MnDRIVE model of interdisciplinary collaboration provides a worthy template for future research investments and partnerships between the University and Minnesota.

“As a land-grant university, the University of Minnesota is dedicated to supporting the people of Minnesota. We are excited and encouraged by elected leaders’ support of University research through MnDRIVE and how that support has driven meaningful progress not only in addressing some of the state’s largest challenges, but in bolstering its key industries. MnDRIVE also provides a proven model for future research partnerships with the State of Minnesota.”

Christopher J. Cramer, former Vice President for Research

Program Milestones

MnDRIVE has contributed significantly to innovation at the University and has engaged large numbers of researchers and Minnesota partners.

5 Years: $97 million total state investments; 400+ projects funded; 60+ MnDRIVE students graduated; 303 inventions disclosed

1,200 UMN researchers involved with MnDRIVE projects; 150 UMN departments across three campuses; 750 UMN faculty, students, and staff hired; $360 million external funding leveraged by MnDRIVE supported researchers

A recent survey of MnDRIVE-supported researchers reported a willingness to take risks for greater societal impacts (versus following more traditional funding paths), increased connections with the public and industry, and a greater sense of belonging and pride in Minnesota.

Research Area Highlights

Banner for Robotics, Sensors, and Advanced Manufacturing

20,000 sq. ft. Gemini-Huntley Robotics Research Lab, seeded by MnDRIVE, funded by private donors
40 highly sought robotics engineers will graduate annually from a new degree-granting robotics institute
10,000+ children introduced to STEM fields through robotics summer camps and outreach programs
UMN ranks 5th in robotics research in the US, according to Computer Science Rankings

Talking Robots Detect Early Signs of Autism Professor Maria Gini’s team is using talking robots to collect data on how children interact with their surroundings and to help diagnose autism in children 2 to 4 years old. Earlier detection increases the opportunities health professionals have to step in and begin treatment when children's brains have more plasticity and are more responsive.

Banner for Global Food Ventures

Supported 41 graduate students in global food areas
Consortium of 18 universities organized by UMN for oat production research 
Developed 5 small-scale deep winter greenhouse pilot sites in Greater Minnesota communities

Food Safety Research Leads to New Clean Water Tech Claros Technologies, a UMN startup company, is developing water filtration systems that safely remove toxins, such as mercury and phosphorus, from our lakes, rivers, and waste streams. According to a 2014 report, 44 percent of Minnesota's waters are impaired. The technology stems from an earlier invention to rapidly detect contamination in food.

Banner for Advancing Industry, Conserving our Environment

65 pilot research projects supported by the MnDRIVE Environment Seed Grant Program
$1.74M invested in six field-scale bioremediation demonstration projects
Testing for nontoxic solutions for the $9B annual global market for antifouling coatings

New Solutions for Biocorrosion Duluth's shipping industry is vital to Minnesota, but its port infrastructure is at risk from biocorrosion and biofouling. MnDRIVE researchers Randall Hicks (UMD) and Mikael Elias (UMTC) have identified an anti-biocorrosion enzyme as an alternative to widely used but toxic copper oxide paints. Field scale testing in coordination with project partner Duluth Seaway Port Authority has indicated long-term efficacy, and researchers are currently exploring commercialization opportunities. This research has also led to development of a partnership with BASF on technologies for bacterial control.

Banner for Discoveries and Treatments for Brain Conditions

62 neuromodulation fellows trained in specialized procedures and techniques
$17.4M in grants and leveraged funding associated with the Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson's Disease Research
$9.9M for a National Institute on Drug Abuse Core Center of Excellence for Neural Circuits in Addiction
$54M in leveraged funding for neuromodulation-relevant projects since 2018

National Leader in Parkinson’s Research MnDRIVE Brain Conditions funding helped the University land an NIH Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson's Disease Research, one of eight such centers around the country, funded at $9.7 million over five years. Since the center's founding in 2016, data and infrastructure from Udall Center projects have been leveraged into $7.7 million in additional external sponsored projects that advance the center's work on behalf of people with Parkinson's disease and related conditions.

Banner for Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trails Network

18 partner sites offer cancer clinical trials throughout Greater Minnesota
451 Minnesotans enrolled in clinical trials near their homes
48 unique clinical trials offered through MNCCTN, its research partners, and national programs
87 personnel engaged at MNCCTN partner organizations including 26 nurse or research coordinators

Expanding Access to Cancer Clinical Trials Cancer is the leading cause of death in Minnesota, where nearly half of all people will be diagnosed with some type of cancer in their lifetimes. Led by the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network removes barriers for clinics that have not had the resources to establish the infrastructure to conduct clinical trials, allowing providers in the metro area and Greater Minnesota to offer clinical research opportunities to their patients.