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University of Minnesota strengthens economic development capabilities to advance private partnerships, spur regional growth

March 13, 2014

The University of Minnesota announced today that it has revamped the central business office in its research arm to streamline the university’s economic development activities related to innovation and research and to advance private partnerships through increased outreach and engagement with business and industry partners throughout the state.

The Office of University Economic Development (UED), housed within the Office of the Vice President for Research, is designed to enhance cross-university connectivity and promote the university’s unique strengths in research, entrepreneurship and innovation. The UED builds upon and strengthens the former role of the Office of Business Relations. The office’s goal is to work more effectively with our partners and continue to serve as the front door for economic development at the university by initiating and supporting interactions between university, industry and economic development partners.

"From technology commercialization to executive education to supporting entrepreneurial activities of faculty and students, the university has a vast and diverse economic development network," said university President Eric Kaler. "This transformed business office will provide a platform to link many resources across the university system and to make it easier for industry to access our expertise and do business with the U."

Leveraging the university’s expertise and innovation resources, this office encourages economic growth throughout the state by promoting research and education efforts that retain, expand and attract industry and talented workers to the state and region and by offering programs and services that target Minnesota and regional business needs and interests.

A recent analysis of top business and industry research sponsors over the past five years shows that economic engagement spans the entire university, with some of the state’s largest companies sponsoring millions of dollars in research across four or more colleges. UED will help to facilitate more cross-disciplinary research at the university by working directly with industry partners to identify specific, often complex business needs and to develop research-based solutions. 

"The U of M plays a crucial role in supporting state and regional economies," said Brian Herman, the U’s vice president for research. "This Office of University Economic Development builds upon that role by aligning economic development activities and forging partnerships that allow the U to reach its full potential as a catalyst for business across the state. We’re excited to develop this effort into a driving force for prosperity in Minnesota."

The university is already a powerful economic engine for the state, creating $8.6 billion in total economic impact annually. In addition, from 2006 to 2011, discoveries and inventions by the university delivered an additional $390 million to the state through patents, licensing, royalties and spin-off companies. The office also connects industry members to university-wide initiatives such as Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE), a program funded in part by the state Legislature meant to advance innovation in four of the state’s key and emerging industries.

The office is led by Dr. Maura Donovan, a former Medtronic executive with extensive leadership experience in the medical device and biotechnology industries. Most recently, Donovan  served as the chief technology officer for the Decade of Discovery, a joint initiative of the U of M and the Mayo Clinic, where she was responsible for implementing public-private partnering to advance diabetes and obesity research at the two institutions.

"By streamlining access to economic development efforts system-wide and helping to better direct businesses to the resources they need, we can encourage entrepreneurship and support workforce development," said Donovan, executive director of the Office of University Economic Development. "This office opens up new opportunities for gainful partnerships that will benefit not only the university and industry, but the state as a whole."

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