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shannon schlecht executive director of AURI

Small Steps for AURI Mean Giant Leaps for Minnesota Entrepreneurs

In recent months, the AURI board of directors and senior leadership have undertaken a new strategic plan to increase the organization’s impact. One of the most critical steps of the plan is the investigation of ways to enhance and diversify AURI’s funding sources, so the organization may better meet the rising demand for its ongoing technical assistance as well as new food and ag innovation services.

The Minnesota Legislature created AURI in the 1980s and has been a trusted and reliable funding partner to the organization and Minnesota’s agricultural and food innovators for over 25 years. However, the legislature also placed a duty to the organization to earn and receive revenue from other sources in the statute. AURI leadership is exploring that duty so we can do more to advance the state’s food and ag innovation opportunities. To put it another way, by enhancing and diversifying its funding sources AURI can take on more projects that will foster economic benefit for Minnesota through value-added products.

Currently, AURI is not able to serve every client in need. In recent years, AURI had to implement wait lists for assisting clients as demand for the organization’s services outpaced its available resources. This means some clients have to wait weeks or months for our assistance. Obviously, this is not conducive to advancing the state’s ag and food innovation, which is our goal, especially in the advancement of the state’s food and agriculture ecosystems.

However, by taking some initial steps to identify additional funding sources to enhance its revenues, AURI can utilize new funds to build infrastructure, which translates into helping more clients, developing more ideas and doing more to support innovation throughout the state.

AURI’s leadership is looking into a number of options, including a partial cost fee-for-service model, retainer contracts with repeat clients, royalty streams on intellectual property development, expanding the number of grants AURI applies for, and since we are a 501(c)3, accepting charitable donations from supporters that see value in AURI’s mission (see page 8 for more info).

Over its 28 year history, AURI has worked with hundreds of businesses, organizations and individuals to increase utilization of the state’s agricultural products. During that period, the organization has not strayed from its mission and I can say without a doubt that AURI’s employees are dedicated and enthusiastic to advancing food and ag innovation across the state. I strongly believe AURI has a bright future ahead of it and these small steps will allow it to be of even greater service to the food and agriculture innovators across Minnesota business.