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About The Center for Innovation

The Center for Innovation at the University of North Dakota was among the first entrepreneur outreach centers in the nation when formed in 1984.  The Center provides assistance to innovators, entrepreneurs, and researchers to launch new ventures, commercialize new technologies, and secure access to capital from private and public sources.

The Center manages two tech incubators in the UND Tech Park, provides SBIR outreach to the state's tech community, helping more than 40 companies secure more than $30 M in SBIR awards, the top source for seed capital for tech entrepreneurs. Since 2006, the Center for Innovation Foundation has helped 160 angel investors in launching nine angel funds in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. These funds have invested  in 43 ventures  which--with co-investment and syndication--have resulted in over $26 million of equity investing, an average investment of $600,000 per venture.  It is also home to the only fully student managed venture fund in the nation where students make the actual investment decisions, Dakota Venture Group.

The Center has fostered over 670 startups, which employs more than 6000 people and have attracted over $140 M in investment.  The Center was named  the state’s first  Center for Excellence in Economic Development in 2003 while building the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center.

The UND Center for Innovation Foundation is one of the premier venture development organizations in the United States, and has been ranked as one of the top entrepreneur centers in the nation by such entities as Entrepreneur magazine, NBIA, SSTI, EDA and SBA.  The Center for Innovation has received 14 national and international awards for excellence, and is one of just seven entrepreneur centers nationwide that has been featured by the Regional Innovation Acceleration Network  (RIAN) for best practices and outstanding performance of venture development organizations.  Six times UND has been ranked in the top 1% of entrepreneur programs out of 2300 nationwide by Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.  Since 2006, the incubators received the “Soft Landings International Incubator” certification from NBIA, one of just 25 incubators worldwide, and among the first six.  In 2013, the Center for Innovation Foundation was awarded the Excellence in Technology-Based Economic Development (TBED) Award from the State Science and Technology Institute's (SSTI), a national organization that leads, supports, and strengthens efforts to improve state and regional economies through science, technology and innovation.

The foundation’s mission is to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and access to entrepreneur capital as well as provide vital entrepreneur infrastructure such as the Ina May Rude Entrepreneur Center, a tech incubator.

The Center for Innovation's vision and mission is to maintain national leadership in entrepreneur outreach and education, and become the leader in tech entrepreneurship in rural America. Our goals are to:

  • Grow entrepreneur ventures
  • Foster Innovation
  • Secure access to entrepreneur capital
  • Provide superb entrepreneur infrastructure
  • Provide world-class entrepreneur education with the UND Entrepreneur Program

Center Signature Successes

The Center has received five (5) National Awards for Excellence in innovation & entrepreneurship.

The Center supports the UND Entrepreneurship program which is ranked #13 on the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine's "Best Schools for Entrepreneurs" listing out of 900 entrepreneur programs nationwide. UND's ranking of #13 is ahead of universities including Syracuse University, University of Notre Dame, and the University of Washington.

The Center has been designated a "Soft Landing International Incubator" since 2006, among the first six worldwide and just one of only 27 in the world by National Business Incubator Association. The Center received this recognition because it has proven itself as a business incubator that helps companies expand internationally, helping locate in our incubator.

The $4.2 M Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center was the first North Dakota Center for Excellence in Economic Development, providing increased opportunities for the state’s entrepreneurs. Diving board entrepreneur Ray Rude provided a $1.75 M gift to construct the incubator, and aerospace entrepreneur James Ray provided $500,000 to construct and furnish the Idea Lab and to develop the entrepreneur community.

UND was the first in the Great Plains to host a tech incubator with the building of the $4 M Skalicky Tech Incubator in 1996 in the UND Tech Park. We are one of just 200 universities nationwide with a tech incubator.  UND is of one of less than 20 campus to host two tech incubators.

The Center has achieved 30 years of self-sufficiency securing over $30 M in entrepreneur infrastructure, services, outreach and endowments (very rare in economic development).  In the spirit of entrepreneurship, the Center pays its own way through fees for services, contracts, incubator rents and grants from foundations, entrepreneurs and government sources.

Over 350 UND students are enrolled in entrepreneur classes including 70 entrepreneur majors, making Entrepreneurship  one of the fastest growing majors on campus.

UND Center for Innovation Foundation Trustees

The Center for Innovation Foundation serves as a link between successful entrepreneurs and the Center for Innovation and its two tech incubators (Skalicky Tech Incubator and the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center) in the UND Tech Park to encourage and foster entrepreneur initiatives and new ventures in the region.

Foundation trustees are:

Chair:  Dale F. Morrison is a founding partner of TriPointe Capital Partners, a middle market private equity firm based in New York City. Prior to launching TriPointe Capital Partners, Morrison was for seven years CEO of McCain Foods, an international leader in the frozen food industry, employing 20,000 people and operating 53 production facilities in 14 countries on six continents. McCain products are sold in 130 countries around the globe. Prior to leading McCain Foods, Morrison was an Executive at Fenway Partners, a middle market buyout firm based in New York City, where he worked on a number of assignments in the consumer products space. Morrison was previously President and CEO of Campbell Soup Company and began his career at General Foods and PepsiCo, where he had significant international responsibilities. Morrison is a board member of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. and InterContinental Hotels Group. Originally from Milton, North Dakota, Morrison earned a business degree from the UND in 1971. He served on the UND Foundation board from 1995 to 2004 serving as the Foundation President.  He was a member of the National Campaign Steering Committee to raise $300 M for UND. He has been an active alumnus with his fraternity, Kappa Sigma. Dale received an Honorary Degree from UND in 1999.

Vice Chair: Randy Newman is Chair, CEO and President of Alerus Financial Corp. of Grand Forks.  Randy joined Alerus in 1981, became the president in 1987 and CEO and 1995.  From 1998-2007 her served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) in Des Moines, serving the last four years as chairman.. Alerus Financial Corporation is one of the largest and oldest independent banking and financial services companies in the upper Midwest with total commercial bank assets exceeding $1.4 billion and $14.5 billion in wealth management. Alerus now operates 18 locations in the North Dakota's Red River Valley, Minnesota's Twin Cities and the Phoenix area and has clients and retirement plan participants in 48 states. Newman was named by NorthWestern Financial Review as the 2008 Banker of the Year. He received his BSBA in 1975 and his MBA in 1979 from UND. Randy has served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis since 2012. He received the Sioux Award from the UND Alumni Association in 2013.

Treasurer:  Chuck Ahearn is Director and CFO of the Ray Foundation in Naples, FL and the Aviation Education Foundation. Chuck has been with the Ray Foundation since 2006.

Trustee: Bart Holaday, of Grand Forks and Colorado Springs, CO was head of the Private Markets Group of UBS Asset Management and its predecessor entities for 15 years prior to his retirement in 2001, during which time he managed more than $19 billion in investments. He previously was vice president of the InnoVen Venture Capital Group. Holaday is currently the president and owner of Dakota Renewable Energy Fund, LLC, which invests in early stage ventures in North Dakota. He is on the board of directors of Adams Street Partners, a private equity investment firm; Alerus Financial of Grand Forks; Montana Dakota Utilities; the United States Air Force Academy Endowment (former-chair); the Falcon Foundation (former vice president); and is chairman and CEO of the Dakota Foundation. He is a past member of the board of directors of the National Venture Capital Association and Walden University.  Holaday has a bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He was a Rhodes Scholar, earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Oxford University. He also earned a law degree from George Washington Law School and is a Chartered Financial Analyst. In 2005, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from UND. He has served on the UND Center for Innovation Foundation since 2002. He received the US Air Force Academy's Distinguished Graduate Award for 2013.

Trustee: Howard Dahl, is president and CEO of Amity Technology in Fargo and CEO of joint venture AGCO-Amity JV since Nov. 2010.  Amity markets farm equipment in 14 countries while AGCO, based in Duluth, Ga., has more than 2,700 dealers and operates in 140 countries. Dahl heads the AGCO-Amity effort to manufacture and market air seeders and tillage equipment. He continues to run Amity Technology with its sugar beet manufacturing equipment. Howard and Brian Dahl started Concord Inc. in 1977 with their father, Gene Dahl, who was a board chairman for Steiger Tractor Co. Howard and Brian’s grandfather, E.G. Melroe, was a founder of the family company that founded the Bobcat skid steer loader manufacturer. Gene Dahl was a son-in-law to Melroe. Dahl received an honorary degree from UND in 2010. Howard serves on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Trustee: Jerry Van Eeckhout, joined the board of directors in 2008.  He is Chairman of Evergreen Enterprises, LLC and previously served as CEO of ConferTech International (NASDAQ) from 1982 to 1990 and CEO of ACT Teleconferencing (NASDAQ) from 1990 to 2003, when he retired.  His management career includes seven years as Controller, Vice President, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer of Medtronic, Inc (NYSE), five years as Chief Financial and Planning Officer of the Pillsbury Co. International Division (NYSE), and eight years as a CPA with Touche Ross and Co., all in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a BS in Accounting from UND in 1962 and is a 1976 graduate of the Stanford Business School Executive Program. He served as an outside director of several public and private companies in the United States and China in the telecommunications, food, medical technology and  non-profit sectors.  He is a former National Director of the American Electronics Association, a past President of the UND Foundation where he served for nine years.  He was named to the North Dakota Entrepreneur Hall of Fame in 1998 and received the 2001 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Rocky Mountain region.  He has served as a Professor of Accounting, Finance, Marketing, and International Management at the University of Minnesota, the University of Denver and the University of Shanghai.

Trustee: Richard McConn is President & CEO of M International of McLean, Virginia which he founded in 1979.  M International has become a leading solutions provider of new aviation parts, overhaul and repair and aftermarket and tech support in the aerospace and defense industries in North America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. McConn is a native of Valley City, ND and a 1966 Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy.  .   Dick served in the office of the USAF Vice Chief of Staff and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and then as a White House Aide to the President Nixon.. Mr. McConn was a founding director of the USAFA Endowment and is currently on the boards of the Falcon Foundation, and the National Defense Industrial Association.  His son Zach McConn is a 2012 graduate of the Entrepreneur program from the UND College of Business & Public Administration.  Dick and his wife Mili also enjoy a lake home at Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Dick has served as trustee of the foundation since Feb 2013.   He received the US Air Force Academy's Distinguished Graduate Award for 2011

CEO:  Bruce Gjovig is entrepreneur coach and founding director of the Center for Innovation at the University of North Dakota, a program focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and private investment.  Launched in 1984, the Center has been actively involved in over 770 entrepreneurial ventures and product introductions, raised over $140 M in entrepreneur capital, and their entrepreneur clients have created more than 6,800 jobs in North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota.  Gjovig is a champion for entrepreneur causes including fostering innovation, tech incubators, tech parks, tech entrepreneur programs and seed and angel capital initiatives across the Upper Great Plains.  He was instrumental in founding the Center for Innovation, the Skalicky Tech Incubator, the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center, the UND Technology Park, InnovateND venture initiative, ten Angel Funds, the Beginning Entrepreneur Loan Program, the 45% seed capital tax credit, the Great Plains Chapter of AUVSI, the BioND Association, the UND Patent & Trademark Depository Library, the North Dakota Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, the North Dakota Business Innovator of the Year award, and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program in North Dakota – vital infrastructure for innovation,  entrepreneurship and private investment to flourish. Gjovig serves as CEO of the Foundation to support innovation, entrepreneurship and private investment that has raised over $30 million to date. Gjovig holds leadership positions in several cultural, educational and business organizations.  including being the co-founder of the national educational foundation movement for college fraternities/sororities started at UND in 1977.  In 2008 Sir Gjovig was presented with the Knight of the First Class, Royal Norwegian Order of Merit by HM King Harald V of Norway. In 2014 he was presented the national Ronald Reagan Award by CPAC for his 30 years of promoting free enterprise, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Trustee Emeritus: James C. Ray is president of the Aerospace Capital Group and president of the Ray Foundation of Naples, Florida.  Ray has invested in more than 300 high tech aerospace and computer ventures, including Compaq Computer. Ray has funded many innovative ventures at an early research stage.  He also is the lead investor in the Hilton Garden Inn located adjacent to the UND Center for Innovation. Since the late 1960s, Ray has served as president of the Ray Foundation, which distributed millions of dollars in royalties earned from the development and sale of a cattle vaccine to a variety of programs especially in aerospace and entrepreneurship. The Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation awarded Mr. Ray the 2012 Lindbergh Spirit Award, which is given every five years for pioneering achievements in an aviation career with the spirit and character that represents the best of this nation.  Ray has contributed more than $14 million to UND, making him one of UND’s largest benefactors. He served on the Center for Innovation Foundation from 2001 to 2014. Mr. Ray received an Honorary Degree from UND in 2009.

Trustee Emeritus:  Bill Ness, Retired CEO and Chairman of Arctic Cat of Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Ness joined Arctic Enterprises, Inc. in 1966 as Director of Engineering and served as a leader for 40 years. . His engineering skills made possible many of Arctic Cats' new model snowmobiles. He was also involved in the development and production of several of the famous Arctic Cat "dragsters" which served to enhance the publics' awareness of the sport of snowmobiling. During his association with both Arctic Enterprises and Arctco, Ness  held top management positions ranging Director of Engineering with Arctic Enterprises to President, CEO and Chairman of Arctco, Inc. Ness was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 1996.  Ness lives in Hudson, Wisconsin. Bill received the Sioux award from the UND Alumni Association in 2012.

Trustee Emeritus: Russell Brown, Retired President and CEO of AGSCO of Grand Forks now living in Buckeye, Arizona. Brown is a 1995 recipient of the North Dakota Business Innovator of the Year, and is the past chairman of the Center for Innovation Advisory Board. Russ served as Chairman of the Foundation from 2001 to 2004.

Trustee Emeritus:  Fran Jabara, President of Jabara Ventures Group, Wichita, Kansas and Founding Director of the Center for Entrepreneur Ventures at Wichita State University.


Four other directors from UND are ex-officio, non-voting members. They are: the President, the Vice President for Finance & Operations, Dean of the College of Business & Public Administration, and the Director of the Center for Innovation who also serves as the CEO of the Center for Innovation Foundation.

The Foundation supports the Center for Innovation to fulfill their mission of helping entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and students launch new technologies, products and ventures, develop business and marketing plans, and access talent and sources of venture financing. The Center has initiatives in developing seed, venture and angel capital infrastructure across the Great Plains. The Center manages two Tech Incubators that host more than 20 entrepreneur ventures employing more than 110 people. The Center was among the first technology entrepreneur outreach centers in the nation and has helped launch more than 440 new products and ventures since it was formed in 1984. The Center has won five national awards for excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship plus two national rankings among the nation's 700 entrepreneur programs. In 2003 the Center received the SBA Research Advocate of the Year award for ND and six western states.

Center for Innovation
Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center
The University of North Dakota
4200 James Ray Drive Stop 8372
Grand Forks, ND 58203 USA
Phone: 701.777.3132
Fax: 701.777.2339
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