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Executive Director’s Column

Teresa SpaethNeed fosters innovation — whether it’s approaching a problem from a different perspective or creating something new.

Innovation in large companies generally comes from research and development divisions that generate new ideas, then develop and test prototypes for technical and economic viability. Most small companies do not have that luxury and rely on their regular staff to generate solutions to problems.

Innovation can happen anywhere. It doesn’t have to come from Fortune 500 corporations or international companies. It can and does come from Main Street Minnesota. Sometimes a new idea alone can be the basis for a new business.

Ideas like cornstalk-based hogs mats — designed by USA Solutions, AURI’s 2007 Ag Innovator of the Year — translate into jobs, economic activity and new uses for ag products. One person working in the swine industry had an idea for doing things a better way. The idea became Compost-A-Mats and athriving business in St. Joseph, Minn.

At AURI we are proud that we have helped develop ag-based innovations for nearly 20 years. Hundreds of ideas have come through our doors, and some of those have developed into products for the food, personal-care, animal, industrial and renewable-energy markets. The ideas have come from real people hoping to capitalize on an innovative opportunity.

Innovation has come from inside AURI as well. We have undertaken dozens of industry-wide initiatives to develop promising opportunities that we and our partners have identified. Working in this environment, our staff is conditioned to look for emergingpossibilities. Whether it is testing glycerin as a possible boiler fuel or evaluating ethanol coproducts as fertilizer, AURI is constantly on the lookout for the next innovation.

It can happen anywhere.