The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) relaunched its Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) Program. Originated in 2016, the EiR program provides food and ag entrepreneurs access to laboratory facilities and scientists.
“The Entrepreneur in Residence program provides access to equipment and facilities that startups may not have or are unable to afford to take the next steps in their product idea. This could be pilot lab equipment, facilities, technical support or chemical analysis for proof-of-concept,” said Dr. Michael Stutelberg, chemistry scientist for AURI and principal investigator for the EiR program participants in Marshall, Minnesota.
AURI activities utilize a comprehensive program framework designed to catalyze innovation. It includes five stages: explore, generate, connect, implement and impact measurement. This framework encompasses analyzing future opportunities and building industry connections to implementing ideas at the commercial level. AURI programs and services support different stages of the framework and the organization works cohesively to create long-term economic benefit for Minnesota.
AURI’s EiR program also supports entrepreneurs in their efforts to attract federal, state and other sources of grant funding. Research grants provide early-stage resources in driving the research and development work necessary when creating intellectual property. Owning intellectual property is key for many entrepreneurs to attract external investment in a new product. By utilizing the EiR program, Minnesota-based applicants can incorporate access to laboratory and equipment resources in grant proposals to make them more competitive to grant reviewers.
According to program lead and AURI’s Senior Director of Science and Technology, Rod Larkins, there is a state-wide effort to enable entrepreneurship and innovation. The EiR program is one way for AURI to contribute to this effort through its mission to foster long-term economic benefit for Minnesota through value-added agricultural products.
“Many ag entrepreneurs need laboratory space, as well as access to analytical equipment and the utilities available at research labs. They need all of those things for process intensive work like making fertilizer or feed, i.e., projects that can’t be done in your garage,” said Larkins. “Having laboratory space is a rare commodity and typically very expensive. This program provides an affordable option that can make all the difference in the world.”
To be eligible for the EiR program, applicants need to propose projects that benefit Minnesota agricultural sectors, demonstrate a positive impact on Minnesota’s economy, and have commercial viability. Clients must also demonstrate the capacity and intent to commercialize their concept upon the project’s completion.
Past EiR participants include Goutham Vemuri, founder and chief technologist for Saysa, whose company focused on developing sustainable technology to produce ag-based counterparts to fossil fuel-derived products. Through the program Vemuri was given access to AURI’s Marshall facility, which currently offers chemical processing and analytical chemistry capabilities, food development kitchen, meat facility, and a food product evaluation and sensory laboratory.
Dave Geobel, CEO and founder of enVerde LLC, also used AURI’s services through the EiR program. enVerde worked to commercialize breakthrough technology acquired from the University of Minnesota that converts a wide range of organic material into synthetic gas, or syngas. The program allowed enVerde to further develop its sophisticated gasification process and prove the concept on a larger scale.
“Entrepreneurs often need flexibility and AURI has created a framework that accommodates lab space and equipment use as long as they are trained and follow the user agreements,” said Larkins.
AURI believes this program can be highly valuable to food and ag innovators and has worked to make it more sustainable in the long run as AURI continues to expand services and resources available to ag innovators and entrepreneurs.
To learn more about the AURI Entrepreneur in Residence Program or any of AURI’s other programs, visit auri.org.