They call it the “Valley of Death” — the gap in a project once a project is past the basic science but not far enough along for investors to jump in.
Michigan Technological University will have a larger role in getting more of those ideas to market. This week, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved funding for two innovations at Michigan Tech and the University of Michigan. Tech will receive $525,000 in funding over a two-year period to support research projects in advanced materials, while U-M receives $1.7 million for its advanced transportation hub.
“The goal is to have a startup company take the technology and run with it, or have an established company license it from the university and go out and employ it,” said John Diebel, assistant director for technology commercialization, innovation and industry engagement at Michigan Technological University.
Tech’s hub will start accepting one-page proposals at the end of March. From those, the hub will select more comprehensive proposals by May. The committee will make final selections in July.
Projects also require a 1-to-1 match in funding.
Once programs are accepted, the oversight committee will score them for funding consideration and grant mentoring.
The idea behind MTRAC was pioneered by Wallace H. Coulter, who created a foundation to speed the commercialization of medical devices. The state of Michigan followed the program and was impressed in its results, Diebel said.
Prior to being named an innovation hub, Tech’s advanced materials program had funded 14 projects, resulting in followup funding of $5.67 million. So far, it has created three start-ups, 14 jobs and two licenses.
Projects have included the surface treatment of titanium orthopedic implants and noise-canceling technology involving a thin film of carbon nanotubes, which can be used for military and private vehicles.
Diebel said the funding will allow them to proceed at a slightly faster pace and fund a greater variety of projects.
Diebel said the innovation hub is a recognition of the work the advanced materials program has already done.