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Executive Director’s Column

Teresa Spaeth“When you’re trying to create things that are new, you have to be prepared to be on the edge of risk.” Michael Eisner, former Disney CEO

“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.” Oracle Corporation founder Larry Ellison

Innovating isn’t easy. American companies spend billions and countless hours trying to come up with the next big breakthrough — whether developing a digital gadget, slick software or a new way to use agricultural products.

AURI has an 18-year track record of working on innovative and sometimes risky ventures. Many have resulted in new products reaching the marketplace. It’s not always easy or speedy but often worth the risk.

For example, more than 15 years ago AURI staff started working on soy-based diesel fuel for underground-mining operations. It wasn’t until September 2005 that all Minnesota retailers began providing diesel with a 2% biodiesel blend. Numerous detractors along the way said the fuel could never be successfully developed. Now there are multiple biodiesel facilities in the state, proving it could be done.

It often takes many months, even years, to move from an idea to a marketable product. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. AURI was created to be innovative and that means not every project or initiative will result in market success. But AURI mitigates the risk by working with existing businesses, entrepreneurs and cooperatives to determine a value-added venture’s technical and market feasibility.

Even in cases where the best decision was to end the project, something was learned that could be applied to future ventures.

We fully expect that not all of our projects will yield commercial success. Some people may tell us we’re nuts —that may be OK. But AURI will continue to support innovation and moving Minnesota ag products into new arenas.