University of Michigan and Michigan Tech designated as innovation hubs

Ashleigh Chatel

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Designation in MEDC’s statewide MTRAC program elevates profile of cutting-edge research with commercial potential

Accelerating the creation and transfer of new technologies from research settings to practical real-world applications is the main focus of the Innovation Hubs at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering and Michigan Technological University, which both received designation approval by the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) board on Feb. 28.

“Bringing two more innovation hubs into the statewide program is an exciting next step for MTRAC as we continue to support the advancement of research and commercialization potential across Michigan,” said Denise Graves, MEDC university relations director. “There is great interest and attention to the advanced transportation and materials industries and to be able to support the research at universities, and now beyond, is a crucial milestone for MEDC’s support of the research community.”

The innovation hubs are a part of the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) program, which reinforces the commitment of the MSF and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to entrepreneurship as a dynamic catalyst for economic growth. MEDC administers programs approved and funded by the MSF, and serves as the state’s chief business attraction and marketing agency.

The statewide program was launched last year with MSF approval of $3.5 million in funding. The program supports the acceleration of technology transfer from Michigan’s institutions of higher education, nonprofit research centers and hospital systems. Supported projects focus on cutting-edge research, competitive edge technology with commercialization potential based on private sector interest. Once accepted into the program, projects will be reviewed and scored by an oversight committee for funding consideration and project mentoring. Michigan State University’s agriculture biology program and U-M’s life sciences programs were the first to be designated as innovation hubs for the program in 2016.

Prior to being named an innovation hub, U-M’s advanced transportation program received proposals on 47 projects, funding 17 of them with follow-on funding totaling $7.98 million. This resulted in the creation of five start-ups, 15 jobs and two licenses to industry.

With the work of the U-M College of Engineering team, the collaboration and success of MTRAC and increased transportation initiatives in Michigan (e.g., MCity, American Center for Mobility) there is a growing interest across the state in bringing advanced transportation technology to the commercial market.

Michigan Tech’s advanced materials program, prior to receiving innovation hub designation, received proposals on 37 projects, funding 14 of them with follow-on funding totaling $5.67 million. This resulted in the creation of three start-ups, 14 jobs and two licenses. 

MEDC’s Entrepreneur and Innovation initiative establishes Michigan as the place to create and grow a business by providing high-tech start-up companies with access to a variety of critical resources, such as funding and expert counsel, from ideation to maturation. For more on MEDC entrepreneurship and innovation, visit

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