Throughout 2018, AURI took a number of meaningful steps to strengthen the organization and provide the highest level of service and resources to clients. During the past year, AURI’s staff and Board of Directors undertook efforts to develop the organization’s first vision statement. After much discussion revolving around the organization’s values, strengths and purpose, the Board decided on: Empowering the commercialization of innovative value-added food and agricultural ideas. This was a significant step because the vision, along with AURI’s mission, helps chart a course for the organization into the future.

Another important development, which stemmed from a recommendation made by the Office of the Legislative Auditor, was the implementation of client project fees. In order for AURI to become more self-sustaining, while still encouraging innovation, the organization developed a subsidized and tiered fee-for-service model based on annual sales. This format keeps AURI’s services affordable for companies of all sizes, especially for small businesses and startups.

From a funding perspective, 2018 was a successful year. AURI received significant grant support from both the United Soybean Board and the USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant program. Thanks to their partnerships, AURI was able to support numerous projects to improve the state’s agricultural sector as well as
its rural communities.

Last, in looking back over the year gone by, I am pleased to see the progress made in our Innovation Networks Program, public educational initiatives, and our commercialization services. These program areas made significant impacts on the food and ag innovation ecosystem by helping clients and stakeholders widen their networks, ensuring awareness of opportunity areas and by bringing new innovations to the market.

Looking forward to 2019, I see a lot of things to get excited about! First, I believe AURI will continue to increase its collaborative partnerships throughout the food, coproducts, biobased and renewable energy industries as Minnesota’s innovation ecosystem grows and evolves.

In addition, I believe the year to come offers significant opportunity for AURI to further innovate and support Minnesota’s value-added agriculture sector. In the next 12 months, AURI will host its third new uses forum, focusing in part on rural investment opportunities. We will also help lead an open innovation program in partnership with a number of other Minnesota-based organizations to accelerate the commercialization of research ideas that can solve industry challenges.

In closing, I want to extend my sincerest thanks to all of AURI’s partner organizations, clients, supporters and staff for making 2018 such a great year. I especially want to thank the Minnesota legislature for its continued strong partnership with AURI to foster new business opportunities that benefit the agricultural community.
I look forward to making 2019 AURI’s best year yet.