DMD Awardee Keynote Luncheon

Will Durfee presenting Pat Dillon with the 2024 DMD Conference Award

Catalysts of Innovation: Government Legislation, Funding, Patents and Entrepreneurship

Pat Dillon, CDR, USN (Ret), MBA
President and Founder, MNSBIR, Inc.
Chair, UMN Technological Leadership Institute
Advisor, UMN Venture Center Business Advisory Group
Advisor, UMN Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center
Advisor, Minneapolis VA Medical Center, RECOVER Program

Innovation invention has its roots in the United States (US) Constitution.  Throughout our history, there are a web of factors that drive innovation, focusing on the synergistic relationship among government legislation, federal funding, patents, and entrepreneurship. US strategic government legislation shape our innovation landscape, creating incentives and frameworks that encourage research, development, and commercialization.  Federal funding plays a critical role as a lifeline for innovators, providing the resources and support necessary to transform ideas into impactful solutions. Patents serve as a cornerstone of innovation by protecting intellectual property and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship. The nexus of government legislation, federal funding, innovation and entrepreneurship drive societal progress and economic growth for a better future. By recognizing and nurturing this nexus of factors, the US continues to be a global leader in innovation, pioneering advancements that shape the future and improve the lives of people around the world.

Expand all


Pat Dillon is the Founder and President of MNSBIR, Inc., a private, non-profit organization to support startups and small businesses to research, develop and commercialize technologies into novel products and services for domestic and global markets by leveraging federal research and development investments. Dillon has nearly 45 years of experience in government, industry, non-profit and academic organizations. Dillon is a leader in Minnesota’s innovation, investment, and commercialization ecosystem with nearly 30 years of knowledge, experience and relationships in the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Dillon is a member of the University of Minnesota (U of M), Technology Commercialization, Business Advisory Group; the Chair of the Advisory Board for the U of M, Technological Leadership Institute; a mentor for the Carlson School of Management, STARTUP Course; a frequent contributor to MN-REACH and MIN-CORPS (I-Corps Programs); a former MN-CUP Life Sciences Semi-Finalist Committee Member; a former speaker and moderator at the U of M Medical Devices Conference, Government Funding for Startups; and a frequent speaker at Twin Cities Startup Week, and taught a graduate course at the Mayo Clinic, Office of Entrepreneurship.

Dillon is a 1999 recipient of the prestigious Small Business Administration’s Tibbetts Award: a national award for excellence in the SBIR/STTR Programs. Pat is also a 2001 recipient of the City Business’ 25 Most Innovative Woman Award (now the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal). Pat has served as a commercialization plan reviewer for the National Science Foundation (twice) and the United States Department of Agriculture (multiple times) and was the principal investigator of an Office of Naval Research contract for SBIR outreach in a five-state region for the first-ever SWIFT Tour (SBIR/STTR Where Innovation Focuses on Technology) (now called SBIR Road Tours).

Dillon is a retired United States Navy Commander with 40 years of service both active and reserve, and in both aviation and intelligence communities. Pat is a combat veteran having served 10 months in Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Dillon is a proud recipient of the Vietnam Era GI Bill earning an MBA and BS in Business Administration from Winona State University, Winona, MN.