xspaeth-bluesoftfocus_opt–by Teresa Spaeth

Generating new ideas. Selecting those innovations that are most likely to succeed. Implementing ideas in the marketplace to create economic impact. These steps are instrumental to successful innovations that result in new products on store shelves and new processes that reduce waste, save money and create jobs.

None of these steps to successful innovation happen in a vacuum. It takes collaboration and resources to bring an idea to reality. In order to further the innovation that happens at AURI and with the clients and partners we serve, we are beginning to bring together and coordinate Industry Thought Leader teams in each of AURI’s core four areas: biobased products, coproducts, food and renewable energy. The teams, which are part of AURI’s Innovation Network Program, will consist of a diverse set of industry experts who will serve as a resource for generating and reacting to research in their topic areas.

The Industry Thought Leaders will:
• advise AURI staff and those we serve on trends and hot topics;
• review and provide feedback on studies looking at future opportunities;
• provide input on the direction of future topic-based gatherings in their area of expertise;
• write blogs or columns to share their expertise with AURI audiences; and
• provide feedback on research ideas and review pertinent research.

This spring, AURI is convening the first group of thought leaders—focusing on the area of food. This team of experts, which will be announced publically later this spring, includes experts from higher education, large businesses, small business and private research organizations. We are excited about the diverseness and depth of experience represented in this group. One of the first goals for this team will be to serve as a focus group and respond to the results of AURI’s Industry Analysis (see page 2). Their expertise will be essential in prioritizing the findings from that analysis to determine next steps in meeting industry needs.

It is essential that we have our hand on the pulse of the industry and the needs, opportunities, challenges and trends that drive new products and processes. The food industry in Minnesota is vast, and the interest in new food is constant and ever-changing. AURI’s network has always been important in our work, and the Thought Leader teams will take this networking to a more formal and effective level in order to best serve agriculture and our business clients.