Global Operations: Reducing barriers to international research

boat

by Sandra Boone

How do I legally hire an employee in Colombia? What’s the best way to access cash in the Congo? Is it better to rent or purchase a car abroad?

These types of legal and compliance issues can easily delay or even derail international research projects. That’s where Global Operations comes in.

Launched in 2012, the University of Minnesota’s Global Operations brings together experts and resources from across the university system in the areas of tax, purchasing, legal, human resources and compliance.

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Apply now for Minnesota Futures

Applications are now being accepted for the Minnesota Futures grant program, administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research. The Minnesota Futures program promotes new research and scholarship that address societal challenges by fostering opportunities for researchers to advance new ideas and cross disciplinary boundaries.

Minnesota Futures provides grants of approximately $250,000 over two years. Letters of Intent are due Feb. 23 and full proposals are due Mar. 23. All applicants who submit an LOI are also invited to submit a full proposal, unless they are notified otherwise.

As with other institutional support at the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Futures awards not only advance important discoveries, they provide significant opportunities to leverage external funding for additional research. Since its first awards were granted in 2008, every $1 invested through Minnesota Futures has yielded an average of $7 coming in to the institution.

Learn more and apply

Convergence Colloquia: Cultivating serendipity for community action

Connection nodes

By Carissa Slotterback

Chance encounters and accidental inspirations have been responsible for many of the world’s greatest discoveries, from penicillin to the Post-it note. Throughout history, our greatest thinkers have advanced scientific understanding and improved our world as a result of being in the right place, at the right time and with the right combination of knowledge and inspiration.

Many researchers, including myself, tell stories of how casual meetings with colleagues have led to some of their most fruitful and long-lasting collaborations. The conversations, learning and opportunity to engage outside of one’s own comfort zone can lead to creativity and innovation.

Of course, there is no magic formula for serendipity, which by definition is unexpected. Yet forward-thinking organizations like Google, Facebook and AT&T are well known for their attempts to create work environments conducive to networking and collaboration in the hopes of generating new ideas and innovation.

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Building a framework for Parkinson’s research

patient care

Minnesota’s population continues to age, raising increasing concerns about chronic brain conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, that can affect older adults.

More than 20,000 Minnesotans are living with Parkinson’s — a degenerative brain disorder that causes shaking, balance problems and slow movements and can lead to other complications — according to the National Parkinson Foundation in Minnesota. The state has one of the highest rates of Parkinson’s in the U.S., and estimates show the disease could grow to affect 30,000 Minnesotans by 2040.1

At the University of Minnesota, researchers are developing a tool that may help turn the tide against Parkinson’s. Working across disciplines, researchers are establishing the first statewide registry of Minnesotans with Parkinson’s, a resource that could dramatically improve future studies on the disease and help reveal which genetic traits and environmental factors add to the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

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Startup Profile: Ninja Metrics

Social network

Ninja Metrics Inc. provides a social analytics tool that can measure how players in online games influence each other and assess the monetary worth of that influence. The company is based on a computer program developed by Jaideep Srivastava, Ph.D., professor of computer science and engineering with the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.


Technology

Ninja Metrics centers on the Katana Analytics Engine, a software program based on U of M technology that uses complex algorithms to understand how users of online games behave and influence one another. Katana processes a wide range of information about players’ actions to predict their future behavior, such as how long they are likely to keep playing the game and the amount of money they are likely to spend on optional extra game content, like character upgrades and new playable environments. While many analytics engines track the users that spend the most money, the Katana engine is the first to identify and analyze the users that influence their peers the most. These players with high “social value” are the most likely to draw new players into the game and spur existing players to purchase content they otherwise would not buy.

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Spring 2015 Grant-in-Aid competition

Apply now for the spring competition of the University of Minnesota’s Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship program, administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research. The program promotes the research, scholarly and artistic activities of faculty and supports academic excellence throughout the university.

To apply for the spring competition, applications must be routed to approvers by Feb. 2 and approvers must submit applications to the OVPR by Feb. 5. All proposals must be submitted electronically; compliance approvals are processed electronically as well.

Visit Grant-in-Aid to learn more about the funding categories, eligibility requirements, how to apply and see samples of some exemplary proposals.

Questions? Contact the Research Advancement office: facgrant@umn.edu or 612-625-2356.

Research excellence in practice

Triptych: lake-probe-forest

In his annual State of Research report this year, VP for Research Brian Herman called out several University of Minnesota faculty who have demonstrated research excellence through their academic leadership, collaborations with colleagues and other institutions, and scientific advancements that improve our world. Below are short profiles of three of these exemplary U of M researchers and some of the current projects they are working on.

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Top 10 Inquiry stories of 2014

2014 in snow

Last June, the Office of the Vice President for Research launched Inquiry to explore the impact of university research and tap into the collective knowledge of the University of Minnesota’s research community. In its first seven months, Inquiry has covered a wide range of research topics, from groundbreaking discoveries, to new partnerships and collaborative projects, to thought leadership from some of the U’s top experts. Here’s a look back on Inquiry’s 10 most viewed stories from 2014.

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Growing a sustainable bioeconomy

Winter rye

Every year, the Fibrominn Biomass Power Plant in Benson, Minn., produces 55 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power about 40,000 homes, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.  Elsewhere in the state, companies like 3M and Cargill are making use of biomaterials to manufacture staples like clothing, fuel and packaging materials. A multi-sector advocacy group, the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota, is working at the policy level to impact decision making that supports growth of the state’s biofuel industry.

These commitments to sustainable energy and products are signs of Minnesota’s emerging bioeconomy where biomass, plant materials such as corn stalks and other biomass crops, provides the raw material for food, animal feed, fuels and other products.

As the industry grows, a team of University of Minnesota researchers is studying how to maximize the economic, environmental and social benefits for people across the state. Their project, “Building Community-based Bioeconomies,” a part of MnDRIVE’s Transdisciplinary Research Program, will bridge the barriers between disciplines, bringing together researchers in agriculture, robotics, landscape architecture and more to develop a holistic approach to a stronger bioeconomy in Minnesota and beyond.

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10 reasons our research enterprise is thriving

Creating Ideas

By Brian Herman

Last week, I presented the annual state of research report for the University of Minnesota to our Board of Regents.

And I had good news.

Despite increasing competition for federal awards and a persistently difficult funding climate, the university, in partnership with its faculty, students, research community and external stakeholders, saw growth in nearly all performance measures in FY2014. These results show a strong research enterprise that has sustained its high ranking among an elite group of public research institutions and is outperforming its peers in the Big Ten.

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Made in Minnesota: Celebrating University Innovators

Fiber optics

Innovation and discovery have always been a proud part of the university’s growing and rich entrepreneurial landscape. During Made in Minnesota: Celebrating University Innovators, which took place Dec. 11 at Northrop, 285 inventors received much-deserved recognition for their efforts to, as President Kaler put it, “confirm that higher education is a profoundly public good.”

Representing 14 colleges across the university system, the honorees earned a total of 141 patents and 316 licenses during fiscal years 2012-2014. The evening included remarks from U of M President Eric Kaler, VP for Research Brian Herman and a keynote from nationally recognized journalist and urbanist Greg Lindsay.

2014 also marked the inaugural presentation of the Innovation Awards—winners were nominated by their peers in three categories for their contributions at various stages in their careers and in the commercialization cycle.

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Startup profile: ApoGen Biotechnologies

DNA test

ApoGen Biotechnologies Inc. is developing new drug therapies that will make cancer treatments more effective. The company is based on scientific discoveries by the University of Minnesota’s Reuben Harris, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics, and Daniel Harki, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicinal chemistry.


Technology

ApoGen is developing a new class of drugs that will slow the evolution of cancer cells, as well as companion diagnostics to identify the patients likely to get the most benefit from these therapies. ApoGen’s drugs block the activity of an enzyme called APOBEC, and the companion diagnostic will identify tumors with high levels of this enzyme. This technology is broadly applicable to many cancer types, including breast, lung, ovarian, bladder and head and neck cancers.
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