University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Editor's Note

The Promise of Innovation


If you stop to think about it, the business of education is really the business of ideas. 

It’s extremely lucky that each new generation doesn’t need to rediscover or reinvent the basic building blocks of their field before they can move forward and contribute in it. Knowledge is cumulative and that’s a very, very good thing. The ideas of electricity or the internet or chemotherapy already exist, and students can be taught how and why they work based on what’s already been discovered. 

Finding a way to move ahead and produce more new ideas based on what we’ve learned from the work of others? That’s called innovation.

In this issue, we look at how innovators associated with the University of Minnesota have developed new ideas or concepts that are transforming industries, advancing science, and addressing current societal problems. In some cases, these new businesses have grown directly out of research conducted at the U of M through a process called technology commercialization. In others, alumni from the U of M are building businesses at the cutting edge of innovation using the education they’ve received here to fuel their efforts.

Take David Goldfeld, who studied sustainable plastics during his time as a graduate student at the U of M’s NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers. Through a chance meeting with a florist, he learned that the ubiquitous green foam that is a mainstay of professional flower arrangers contains known carcinogens and contributes to microplastic pollution.

Goldfeld and his fellow researchers thought there might be a better way. Their innovations led to BKB Floral Foam, a new company that hopes to revolutionize the floral industry and make life better for us all. 

Or consider the immense possibilities of a company called Miromatrix Medical, which is working to transform discarded pig organs into usable human kidneys and livers for transplant patients. Based on extraordinary research that came out of the University, this growing company not only is making solid strides in its work, it employs many graduates of the U of M, providing jobs, as well as innovation. 

And as just one more example, consider the novel insight displayed by recent graduate Erik Jamison-Ekeling. An industrial designer, this 2022 alumnus and hockey fan has developed a product called The Assist to help hockey players with physical disabilities participate in and better enjoy the game they love. 

You’ll get to learn about these companies and many more in this issue of Minnesota Alumni. They demonstrate not only the tremendous power of ideas, but also the innovation that fuels our economy.

Kelly O’Hara Dyer can be reached at

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