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MnDRIVE advances promising research

By Richard Broderick

Most budgets adopted by the Minnesota Legislature are rooted in the here and now, designed to keep state agencies and programs afloat for the next couple of years.

But in April 2013, state lawmakers looked toward a longer-range future and did something far from humdrum. They established the Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) Initiative, a truly innovative program that provides $18 million per year in state funding. The funding is for initiatives that combine the University of Minnesota’s strengths in four critical areas with the state’s most important and emerging industries.

The four key areas are robotics, sensors and advanced manufacturing; global food ventures; advancing industry and conserving the environment; and discoveries and treatments for brain conditions. Understandably, the MnDRIVE Initiative has major implications for the College of Science and Engineering, especially in the realm of robotics, sensors, and advanced manufacturing.

“If we look at the business community in Minnesota, at companies both large and small, at doctors, and lawyers—a large percentage are University graduates. The University is not only the state’s major educational force, it is also a major spur for regional economic growth.”

-- Nikos Papanikolopoulos

“Basically MnDRIVE is the outcome of the tight integration between the University and Minnesota’s economy and development, in particular the region around Twin Cities,” observes Nikos Papanikolopoulos, a professor of computer science and engineering. “If we look at the business community in Minnesota, at companies both large and small, at doctors, and lawyers—a large percentage are University graduates. The University is not only the state’s major educational force, it is also a major spur for regional economic growth.”

“MnDRIVE started as a way of investing in the community by helping to strengthen the bonds between the University, business creation, and workforce development,” he explains. “The University gets money from the state and it helps train the workforce. But even more so, the University tries to solve some challenging problems that local industry faces.”

“MnDRIVE represents a collaboration between the University, our state, and the important areas of industry where we need to drive innovation,” said Brian Herman, University of Minnesota vice president for research. “This initiative will help ensure the University remains competitive as a research leader by developing the technologies and work force of the future as we continue to plan for and resource innovation beyond the current, uncertain economic environment.” The Office of the Vice President for Research is charged with implementing the program and providing oversight and measurement for the initiative.

The following profiles illustrate how researchers in the College of Science and Engineering are driving innovation through MnDRIVE.

  • [intlink id="6118" type="post"]Mapping the world: Stergios Roumeliotis[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="6122" type="post"]Flying High: Demoz Gebre-Egziabher[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="6126" type="post"]Smarter Surgery: Timothy Kowalewski[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="6132" type="post"]Sensing and Estimation: Rajesh Rajamani[/intlink]