At the University of Minnesota, we always have our eyes on the future, educating the next generation of leaders for our state, nation and world.
But during difficult times like these, we are reminded of the important role we play in the present. Every day, we are researching cures and innovative technologies to help doctors and nurses fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of the nation’s leading research institutions, we are uniquely positioned to help our state address this crisis and remain on the path toward health and prosperity.
Over the last several months, our faculty members have quickly converted their labs into COVID-19 rapid response spaces, and their work is paying off for Minnesota and the nation. Already, our researchers have invented and received FDA authorization for a low-cost emergency ventilator, rolled out a statewide testing plan with Mayo Clinic that will track the spread of COVID-19 and help reopen the state’s economy, launched several clinical trials into promising therapies and designed new personal protective equipment to help keep medical personnel safe. Minnesota is better prepared to overcome this challenge because our faculty answered the call for help, early and skillfully.
Our friends and partners in the Minnesota Legislature have the opportunity to further strengthen this impact. We know that innovative research is a product of the environment in which it takes place. World-class researchers in every discipline — from medicine and engineering to child development and food security — need facilities and financial support to deliver on the promises of their work.
The University of Minnesota is prepared to break ground on facilities that will advance our commitment to nation-leading research. With the state’s help, we can invest in a chemistry teaching laboratory for undergraduate students (many pursuing STEM careers), a state-of-the-art home for our nationally top-ranked developmental psychology program, renovated teaching spaces in Duluth and research spaces across the university system, and the beginning plans for a modernized medical research facility. With state support, we can redouble our search for discovery.
But COVID-19 has proved not only a public health crisis, demanding a research-forward response, but an economic one as well. For lawmakers looking to put Minnesotans back to work, investing in U infrastructure offers a unique stimulus opportunity. Through internal efficiencies, streamlined procurement processes and unique expertise, the university is able to utilize state bonding resources and help put construction shovels in the ground quickly — oftentimes in a matter of weeks or months.
Our $4.8 billion, 10-year deferred renewal needs stretch across all four corners of Minnesota at our campuses and research and outreach stations. Since 2014, the university’s bond-supported construction projects have pumped more than $400 million into 280 companies, in 80 cities and 28 counties around Minnesota. We can put people to work quickly and across the entire state, and with lawmakers’ support, we will do so.
The University of Minnesota is committed to the people of our state, now more than ever. We are proud of our strong, enduring partnership with the state of Minnesota and its lawmakers, whose ability to enhance our impact has never been clearer. Investing in the U now will not only yield improved research outcomes in the long run, but provide an immediate lifeline for the state’s economy today.
Kendall J. Powell is chair and Steven A. Sviggum is vice chair of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.