Colloquia embrace serendipity, spur new partnerships

When experts come together from across disciplines, organizations and sectors, it sets the stage for serendipity — where creative thought leads to new and often unexpected solutions to large challenges.

The University of Minnesota’s Convergence Colloquia is a series of multidisciplinary gatherings that encourage serendipitous approaches to improving our world. These think tanks, hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research, bring U researchers together with private, public and nonprofit stakeholders to identify opportunities to focus on critical societal issues. The colloquia advance cutting-edge research to develop innovative solutions and build long-term partnerships.

“Colloquia events support an environment where a wide range of experts can engage in rich, thoughtful discussions about pressing issues in our communities,” said Carissa Slotterback, the U’s director of Research Engagement. “The resulting collaborations between researchers at the U and professionals in the community are an important first step toward addressing some of the greatest challenges facing our society.”

Two colloquia have already taken place — the first on smart cities and infrastructure, and the second on aging. These events included more than 160 participants from more than 40 University departments, centers and institutes and more than 60 external organizations, including nonprofits, private companies and the public sector. Following the events, OVPR awarded a total of $120,000 in Serendipity Grants to six projects, which are now in progress.

Three more Convergence Colloquia events are scheduled for 2015.

Upcoming colloquia

Sept. 25 — Health Equity
This colloquium will explore health inequities as they relate to issues such as access to healthcare, exposure to health impacts and health outcomes. The event will consider demographic, geographic and other factors that contribute to inequity and consider innovative approaches to identifying health impacts and remedying inequities.

Oct. 9 — Renewable Energy
This event will focus on the production, distribution and consumption of renewable energy sources, considering issues such as technology, policy, design, governance and finance. Participants will consider renewable energy issues at the household, neighborhood, city, industrial and agricultural scales.

Dec. 11 — Sustainable Food Systems
The final colloquium of 2015 will explore opportunities to build sustainable food systems that reduce environmental impacts, are economically viable and achieve equitable food access. The event will focus on issues such as building a viable supply and demand chain, producing food in urban settings and advancing education and engagement opportunities around sustainable food systems.

For more information on the Convergence Colloquia or to request an invitation for one or more of these events, contact Carissa Slotterback at schiv005@umn.edu.