The Minnesota Legislature created the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) to help find new uses for Minnesota’s rich agriculture resources. Its mission is to foster long-term economic benefit for Minnesota through value-added agricultural products. It accomplishes this by offering agricultural producers, entrepreneurs and agribusinesses a unique mix of services that include:
- Applied research and development to identify opportunities for innovation and commercialization in collaboration with commodity organizations, higher education institutions, federal agencies and research organizations.
- Innovation networks comprised of industry leaders and academics. This combination offers extensive knowledge of Minnesota’s agricultural industry, commercialization, available resources for business development, techniques for managing innovation and supporting entrepreneurship, and the dynamics and challenges faced by Minnesota’s rural communities.
- Commercialization services to help entrepreneurs and small-to-medium-sized businesses prepare their product or service for mass-market consumption. This often includes access to laboratories and scientists, important aspects of product and process development that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. It also includes economic or feasibility assessments and providing counsel on how to best formulate product mixes for scaling up production.
The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) offers a comprehensive program framework designed to catalyze innovation. AURI’s framework includes five stages: Explore, Generate, Connect, Implement and Impacts. AURI programs and services support each stage and work cohesively to create long-term economic benefit.
AURI’s Commercialization Services Program enables businesses utilizing Minnesota agricultural products to bring new, innovative value-added products and technologies to the marketplace. AURI staff and facilities provide valuable research and development capacity to entrepreneurs, start-ups, existing businesses and cooperatives.
AURI’s commercialization services include:
- Access to knowledgeable scientists and project staff
- Analytical laboratory testing
- Product development and improvement
- Process development and improvement
- Cost share assistance
- Network referrals
Types of Assistance Available
AURI helps clients develop new or improved commercial products and innovative technologies to increase value, demand and market opportunities for Minnesota agricultural products. AURI’s Commercialization Services assist clients with commercialization goals through technical assistance and research and development funding.
Both types of assistance begin with AURI staff assessing client needs, business concepts and commercialization goals.
- Technical Assistance
Technical assistance consists of staff expertise, labs and pilot plant services to prepare products or technologies for commercialization. AURI offers confidential technical and business development assistance:
- Business development: Staff provide entrepreneurial and business resources through a network of collaborative partners.
- Scientific and technical services: Staff provide consulting and expertise on technical soundness and quality, product and process development; analytical testing; product formulation, evaluation and testing; prototype development; and sourcing ingredients, materials, equipment and services.
- Pilot plants and labs: Facilities are available to assist in product and process development, scale‐up, nutritional assessment, pilot production line development and production for market assessment, and short-term residencies for entrepreneurs. AURI laboratory and pilot plant facilities include:
- Microbiology Laboratory
- Analytical Chemistry Laboratory
- Bioproducts Laboratory
- Food Laboratory
- Meat Laboratory
- Coproducts Utilization Laboratory
- Research and Development Funding
Commercialization often requires a complex network of providers, partners and expertise. If AURI’s internal research capabilities cannot fully meet project needs, AURI and clients may share the cost of additional research and development expertise needed at the research and development stage:
- Technology development, validation and testing
- Prototype construction and test market product costs
- Market research
- Engineering review
- Packaging feasibility and assembly design
- Technical, economic and market feasibility
Research and Development Funding Eligibility Tiers
The maximum level of cost-share funds available to a client depends upon the type of business structure, a project’s potential impact, and the client’s demonstrated ability to bring a project to commercialization.
|Tier 1||Tier 2|
|Sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation||Sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation|
Annual Gross Product Sales
<$500,000 / year
>$500,000 / year
Maximum Research and development Funding*
$50,000 per project
$100,000 per project
$100,000 per legal entity
$200,000 per legal entity
Eligible Type(s) of Match****
* Dependent upon demonstrated impact on community or commodity.
** Lifetime limit applies to the legal entity involved in the project, as well as any general partnership, limited partnership, corporation, joint venture, trust or joint operation in which the funded legal entity is substantially involved in providing labor, capital or management, or in which the funded legal entity has a greater than 30% ownership interest and is involved with the organization.
*** AURI’s share not to exceed 1:1 cash match
**** Non-MN Government Funds
***** For research and development funding cash outlays exceeding $600 annually.
Value-Added Agriculture: Altering the physical state of an agricultural commodity or product through processing to enhance its value, the production of a product in a manner that enhances its value or the physical segregation of an agricultural commodity or product in a manner that results in the enhancement of the value of that commodity or product. Source: USDA
Minnesota Agricultural Products: Products derived from crops or livestock produced commercially in Minnesota, or crops or livestock that have the potential for commercial production in the state.
To be eligible for AURI’s Commercialization Services, proposed value-added agricultural projects must benefit Minnesota agricultural products, demonstrate a positive impact to Minnesota’s economy and have commercial viability. Clients must also demonstrate the capacity and intent to commercialize their concept upon project completion. AURI works with a client to plan, monitor, and implement a proposed project. Crop and livestock production projects are not eligible for the Commercialization Services Program.
Evaluation of Projects
AURI assistance occurs early in the development of a product or technology, during which feasibility is determined. AURI evaluates requests for service based upon a project’s potential impact on Minnesota agriculture and the economy. Project evaluation includes the following criteria:
- Commodity Utilization: Potential to increase the use of a Minnesota commodity or coproduct.
- Producer Impact: The degree Minnesota agricultural producers or the agricultural industry will benefit.
- Value-Added: Potential to add value to a Minnesota agricultural commodity or coproduct.
- Economic Impact: Potential economic impact to Minnesota.
- Client Vision: Alignment of client background, passion and ability to commercialize product or process.
- Innovativeness: The project is innovative, disruptive or unique.
- Collaboration: The level of cooperation between the client and partners and the experience of collaborators.
AURI scales its services to the potential impact of proposed projects. Certain projects may be eligible for technical assistance only, while others may be eligible for technical assistance and research and development funding.
Assistance through AURI’s Commercialization Services Program requires completion of a Client Application. Potential clients are encouraged to discuss the project with AURI staff prior to completion of the Client Application. A project involves the following steps:
STEP 1: Discussion between potential applicant and AURI staff regarding project concept.
STEP 2: Client completes the Client Application and signs an Assistance Agreement (AA). The AA outlines the terms and conditions of AURI services.
Note: Supplemental information is required for research and development funding requests and technical assistance projects exceeding 80 hours.
STEP 3: AURI project team evaluates mission fit, capacity to perform needed services and potential impact (see “Evaluation of Projects”). If positive, the project team develops a scope of work with applicable service fees and reviews with client.
STEP 4: AURI management team reviews the Client Application and project team scope of work. The management team may accept the project allowing the project team to proceed, adjust the team and/or scope of work, or deny the project.
Note: Requests for AURI research and development funding over $25,000 require approval from AURI’s Board of Directors. Upon approval, AURI generates a research and development funding agreement. Client must sign the agreement within 60 days of AURI approval for project continuation.
STEP 5: Once a project is accepted, the project team and the client will work together to achieve the project’s goals.
STEP 6: Upon project completion, a final report is prepared. After closure of the project, the client will receive periodic requests to complete impact assessments.
Responsibility of the Client
AURI research and development funds require a cash match in accordance with the applicable funding tier. Matching funds may not come from an AURI affiliated program or another State of Minnesota source. Technical research and business assistance available within AURI are not eligible for cost-share funding. In addition, research and development funds cannot be used for legal fees, salaries of existing employees or officers, travel, websites, vehicles, equipment, buildings, real estate, lobbying, slotting fees, packaging design, printing or items relating directly to costs of full-scale production (Cost of Goods Sold). AURI management approves requests for seed funds and the subsequent use of funds; however, projects requesting $25,000 or greater in seed funding support must be reviewed and acted upon by the AURI Board of Directors.
Agreement to support technical assistance or research and development funding project requires AURI and the client enter into a written agreement establishing the terms and conditions of AURI support.
During the course of a project, clients are required to submit the following:
- Progress reports, submitted when requesting seed fund disbursements, describing activity to date and documenting match.
- A final narrative report, including any appendices or materials developed and supporting documentation, describing the work performed and the results obtained.
- A final financial report of expenses incurred within the scope of the project.
- Estimates of project impacts upon project completion and agreement to periodic contact with AURI staff or affiliated parties to provide progress reports on impact measures related to the project.
AURI will treat all mutually agreed upon information provided by an applicant as confidential. AURI considers information it gathers or receives to be private, including:
- Financial data, statistics and information furnished in connection with AURI cost-share assistance, including credit reports, financial statements of net worth, income tax returns (either personal or legal entity) and any other personal or legal entity financial records;
- Security information, trade secret information, or labor relations information disclosed to members of the AURI Board of Directors or employees of
Proprietary information provided to AURI should be limited, set apart from the text of an application, and clearly marked as CONFIDENTIAL. AURI will limit the dissemination of proprietary information to staff and project reviewers on a confidential basis; but in any event, AURI does not assume any liability for inadvertent disclosures.
AURI will not, consistent with relevant law, make public any information disclosing product, process, commodity, invention, technology, innovation, or service funded pursuant to this program until a patent, copyright or trademark is applied for, or for two years after completion of the project, whichever occurs first. AURI does not assume liability for any inadvertent disclosure.