MnDRIVE focuses research in areas critical to Minnesota’s economy

October 19, 2012

Economic Impact

An ambitious initiative was included in the University of Minnesota’s biennial budget request to the state. MnDRIVE (Minnesota Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy) seeks to establish a new, ongoing partnership with the state. The aim is to advance Minnesota’s economy, position the state as a leader in key industries, and improve quality of life for all Minnesotans.

At the October 2012 Board of Regents meeting, U of M researchers explained that the university is well positioned to establish itself as a national and global leader in the four MnDRIVE focus areas, including:

Securing the global food supply

Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, discussed the development of integrated approaches to ensuring a sustainable, safe and resilient food system — from farm to fork.

“Food is the primary engine of Minnesota’s economy and the U of M fuels that engine,” Diez-Gonzalez said. “We envision that this initiative will support enhancements to the supply chain that will increase Minnesota’s food industry competitiveness and protect public health.”

Advancing discoveries and treatments for brain conditions

Timothy Ebner, professor and head of the Department of Neuroscience, talked about how critical U of M research is to the state and to Minnesota’s medical device industry. Ebner explained how neuromodulation (a treatment that changes the activity of brain circuits) offers the potential to improve stroke recovery and address complex and debilitating disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

“Depression and obsessive compulsive disorder are incredibly hard to treat and they are now turning to neuromodulation,” Ebner said. “If we could intervene in these diseases, we could make a major impact.”

Supporting robotics, sensors and advanced manufacturing

Maria Gini, a distinguished professor in the College of Science and Engineering and associate head of Computer Science and Engineering, talked about how the university and state will emerge as a robotics leader in the nation, benefiting citizens in everything from personal lifestyle to advanced manufacturing.

“It’s a growing industry with increasing demand,” Gini said. “Worldwide industrial robot sales, for example, went up 38 percent from 2010 to 2011.”

Advancing industry and conserving the environment

Michael Sadowsky, Distinguished McKnight Professor and director of the BioTechnology Institute, discussed how to enhance opportunities for Minnesota’s energy, agriculture and mining industries by solving environmental challenges and more efficiently using current and future energy sources.

“We could apply these technologies throughout the state on currently stalled industrial and agricultural processes,” Sadowsky said. “For example, microbial bioremediation could resolve previous issues related to nitrate contamination in former mine pits and allow the aquaculture industry to prosper.”

See the MnDRIVE presentation

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