Michigan’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Receives Increased Support for Growing High-tech Startups in the State

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Michigan Strategic Fund approves more than $2 million to support high-tech entrepreneurs and startups across state

LANSING, Mich. – With the goal of growing Michigan’s economy and supporting high-tech startups and entrepreneurs across Michigan, the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) awarded more than $2 million in funding and extensions to university research grants and business incubators, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today.

Funding and extensions approved by the MSF include:

  • Business Incubator Gateway Representative Grant ($1.72 million)
    • All $1.72 million awarded went to SmartZones across Michigan
  • University Early Stage Proof of Concept Grant Fund ($200,000)
  • Northern Michigan University Invent@NMU Business Incubator ($400,000)
  • Flint Ferris Wheel ($325,000)

“When Michigan commits to investing in programs and resources dedicated to supporting high-tech entrepreneurs and startups, we continue to cement our global reputation as the place for entrepreneurs to grow and expand their business,” said Fred Molnar, vice president of MEDC’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation (E&I) initiative. “We are grateful the MSF continues to recognize the importance of investing in our programs, and we look forward to another successful year for high-tech innovation across the state.”

The Gateway Representative (GWR) Business Incubator grant program is designed to support Michigan’s 21 SmartZones. The program was developed in 2015 in response to the need for a key point of contact at the SmartZones who is experienced in working with high-tech startups and understands the statewide high-tech entrepreneurial ecosystem. The GWR is responsible for introducing tech companies to the local ecosystem, recruiting and developing companies, helping with fundraising efforts and federal grant support, and connecting companies with available resources. In fiscal year 2019, Gateway Representatives:

  • Served 645 companies
  • Created 111 companies and 342 new jobs
  • Retained 1,845 jobs
  • Secured $135 million in follow-on-funding
  • Saw a $485 million increase in new revenue

Established in 2014 to support students and regional entrepreneurs in developing and launching their high-tech ideas, Invent@NMU is Northern Michigan University’s business incubator. In 2017, the incubator partnered with the Innovate Marquette SmartZone and expanded its services to support tech entrepreneurs across the Upper Peninsula. The grant extension awarded by the MSF will allow Invent@NMU to support one year of operations, including project marketing, consultants and other administrative expenses. Since July 2017, the program has:

  • Provided services to 25 tech businesses
  • Created seven companies
  • Attracted more than $165,000 in follow-on-funding
  • Supported $84,730 in new sales

“From Detroit to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, SmartZones provide critical resources for high-tech startups and entrepreneurs looking to take their products and ideas to market,” said Nadia Abunasser, MEDC’s E&I federal and development projects director. “Funding for these incubators ensures the state maximizes attracting, retaining and supporting talent—a driving force of Michigan’s economic growth.”

The University Early Stage Proof of Concept Fund, administered by Michigan State University, awards grants to university faculty with early stage technology ideas to encourage the development of competitive-edge technologies to create startups and new jobs in Michigan. The program provides matching funds that create a strong incentive for faculty with early stage technologies at Michigan universities to engage with their university’s technology transfer office to assist in the achievement of critical early stage milestones which will lead to commercialization activities. As of September 2019, the program has:

  • Reviewed 44 proposals
  • Funded 35 projects
  • Awarded five licenses and issued two patents
  • Secured more than $1 million in follow-on-funding
  • Supported seven of Michigan’s major research universities

“Creating relationships and incenting faculty at our universities is critical to the commercialization of new, innovative products and ideas,” said MEDC’s E&I University Relations Director Denise Graves. “Funding for the University Early Stage Proof of Concept Fund will provide a pipeline of de-risked technologies and potential fundable startup opportunities leading to commercialization in high-value technology sectors.”

Located in Flint, the Ferris Wheel provides entrepreneurial and innovation support to all entrepreneurs and startups in the region. Using 100K Ideas, the nonprofit arm of the Ferris Wheel, college students are hired to work with the entrepreneurs and startups to help develop their product, software or service beginning at the idea stage. This includes an initial business assessment, along with research, design and engineering support. The C.S. Mott Foundation in Flint will also provide an additional cash match in the amount of $325,000 for additional support. Between April 2017 and October 2019, the Flint Ferris Wheel has:

  • Received 485 idea submissions
  • Completed 384 assessments
  • Created 29 new companies
  • Produced 10 new jobs
  • Attracted $1.45 million in follow-on-funding

MEDC’s E&I initiative establishes Michigan as the place to create and grow a business by providing high-tech startup companies access to a variety of critical resources, such as funding and expert counsel, from ideation to maturation. For more information on MEDC’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation, please visit www.michiganbusiness.org/entrepreneurship.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.