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Convergence Colloquia

The Convergence Colloquia are multi-disciplinary gatherings that advance cutting-edge research to develop innovative solutions and build long term partnerships that improve the world. The idea behind the gatherings is to bring together University researchers with private, public, and nonprofit stakeholders to identify strategic collaboration opportunities that can lead to significant impact at the local, state, national, and global scales.

The colloquia grew out of recommendations from the U of M’s research strategic plan, Five Years Forward, to promote a culture of serendipity that advances scientific discovery through collaborative thinking and action.

Colloquia in action

Each colloquium engages 50-100 participants from a variety of disciplines and fields. Through facilitated sessions and focused dialogue, participants work to identify a set of strategic research priorities and explore opportunities for collaboration.

Seven highly successful Convergence Colloquia were held between February 2015 and May 2016 on the topics of smart cities and infrastructure, aging, health equity, renewable energy, sustainable food systems, water supply and citizen science.

More than 600 people, with roughly half from the University and half from outside, participated in these action-oriented “think tanks”. Internal participants came from all five University campuses and 15 UMTC colleges, and external participants represented the nonprofit sector, the public sector, and the private sector.

Serendipity grants

The colloquia are followed on by the opportunity to build new collaborative research with funding from dedicated Serendipity Grants. For the first seven Convergence Colloquia, 25 serendipity grants (out of 59 proposals) were awarded for a total of $522,000. The McKnight Foundation provided $130,000 of those grants.

Serendipity Grants included projects to map the age of infrastructure across Minnesota’s towns and cities in order to help inform policymakers’ decisions, to benchmark the growing sector of urban agriculture for environmental sustainability and production efficiency, and to examine the opportunities and barriers to the use of renewable energies by municipal and cooperative utilities in Greater Minnesota. More grant details are available under each colloquium’s topic.

More information

Convergence Colloquia: Cultivating serendipity for community action

Convergence Colloquia: Gauging Impact

Questions? Contact Frances Lawrenz, lawrenz@umn.edu.