Innovation Zone Advisory Panel Meets and Application Is Live

October 26, 2017 • Krista Kaput

On Tuesday, the Innovation Research Zone Advisory Panel met for the first time to discuss the Innovation Research Zone application, which was released in mid-September, and the application rubric, which the Panel will be working on and releasing in late November. According to Jennifer Nelson, Director of State Library Services for the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), the intent of the rubric is to provide more detailed information for applicants about what the Panel will be looking for when they are reviewing the applications.

The Innovation Research Zones Pilot Program legislation was signed into law during the recent contentious 2017 legislative session. And while there currently isn’t funding attached to being an innovation zone, there are several other benefits, including:

  • Flexibility from state laws and rules
  • Political “cover” for innovation with school boards and other stakeholders
  • Formal network for partnering with other school districts, universities, and nonprofit organizations

The application for the innovation research zone partnerships is currently live, along with application instructions. Below is pertinent information regarding how applications are accepted and important dates for applicants to be aware of.

Process for Deciding Which Applications will be Accepted

The legislation creates an Innovation Research Zone Advisory Panel, which reviews submitted innovation research zone plans and recommends them for approval to the commissioner, who has final decision-making authority on which plans will be part of the innovation research zones.

You can read more about the application process, as well as who is on the Innovation Research Advisory Panel here.

Timeline for Innovation Zone Application, Review, and Implementation

Important dates for the innovation research zone partnership application, Innovation Research Zone Advisory Panel review, and implementation are:

  • January 26, 2018: Deadline for applications to receive preference. Even though applications can be submitted at any time, the law limits the number of innovation research zone partnerships that can be formed to three in the seven county Twin Cities metropolitan area and three in Greater Minnesota. Therefore, we recommend that applications are submitted by this date in case the cap is reached.
  • January 29-February 16, 2018: Panel will review applications.
  • February 28, 2018: Approximate date for when the Panel will make recommendations to the commissioner.
  • March 2018: Commissioner will decide which applications will be accepted as innovation research zone partnerships.
  • July 1, 2018: Innovation research zone partnerships will formally start.
  • January 2019: Innovation research zone partnerships have to submit their interim reports to MDE.
  • July 31, 2019: Innovation research zone partnerships have to submit their final reports to MDE.

If you have any further questions, you can contact our Manager of Policy and Research, Krista Kaput, at

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