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NRRI base funding gets needed boost

U.S. paper currency scattered with a state of Minnesota flag flying above.
June 2, 2017

With an infusion of base funding that provides support for researchers and programs, NRRI is looking ahead to help the state prepare for a changing economy. 

For example, NRRI’s Wood Products and Bioeconomy Initiative is working with traditional industries to transition to new biochemical products.

On Tuesday, Governor Mark Dayton approved budget bills that provide an annual increase of $2 million in recurring funds for NRRI, shoring up state support that had remained unchanged from the mid-1980s.

The University of Minnesota Duluth’s NRRI is a unique, comprehensive applied research organization that provides data-driven information and tools to state and local decision-makers, industry and other stakeholders to support good, long-range decisions. Its scientists and engineers engage and collaborate to promote efficiency, competitiveness and reduced environmental impact of Minnesota’s natural resource industries. It also works with small and entrepreneurial businesses to provide research and development support.

“The work we have accomplished over the past 30 years really sets NRRI up to scope out the key research arenas related to natural resource utilization, conservation and impact reduction,” said Rolf Weberg, NRRI executive director. “This funding will provide added support for our researchers to leverage in pursuing larger grant funding and will allow NRRI to attract top talent and skill sets as the organization evolves with state challenges.”

One issue on the Institute’s priority list is ensuring that the state has appropriate biomass resources – wood, energy crops, agricultural waste – to support an emerging Minnesota bioeconomy. For example, NRRI’s Wood Products and Bioeconomy Initiative is working with traditional industries to transition to new biochemical products. The Renewable Energy Initiative is moving forward with commercial-scale biomass solid fuels to supplement fossil fuels. The Land and Forest Initiative continues to develop hybrid poplar species for fast-growing biomass crops. Meanwhile, the Minerals and Water Initiatives continue to explore new opportunities for higher value materials while developing improved processes, monitoring impacts and developing conservation and remediation tools.

“This infusion comes at a critical time for NRRI and will allow the organization to continue our mission-driven approach to drive higher value economies,” Weberg added. “I would also like to acknowledge broad support across the state – from the governor’s office and legislators to local leaders and industries. We’re excited to get to work for Minnesota.”

The mission of UMD’s NRRI is to deliver research solutions to balance our economy, resources and environment for resilient communities.