State Supports Early-Stage Innovation Projects

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Michigan State University chosen to administer the statewide University Early Stage Proof of Concept-ADVANCE Fund on behalf of Michigan Economic Development Corporation

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) Board today approved support for Michigan State University to administer the University Early Stage Proof of Concept-ADVANCE Fund. Over the past four years, this program has helped research at universities break into the commercial market. Through its work to support projects across the state, this program provides matching funds, resources and specialized services, by way of the university technology transfer offices at all institutions of higher education.

“The research being done at the universities represents some of the most innovative and groundbreaking discoveries of our time, and here in Michigan we are proud to have a collaborative statewide university network and an ecosystem that fosters these ideas to help them grow,” said Denise Graves, University Relations Director for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). “By offering critical support through this program, we are helping to make sure the kinds of inventions that will shape the way we live are given an opportunity to get to the commercial market.”

Since its inception in late 2016, the University Early Stage Proof of Concept-ADVANCE Fund has supported 51 proposals from seven state universities that have received $1.58 million in follow-on funding. This includes proposals developing innovative technologies such as the following:

  • Dr. Timothy Grotjohn of Michigan State University received an ADVANCE grant to successfully demonstrate a capability to grow multiple diamonds simultaneously from plasma, making it cost-effective in industrial applications. The technology portfolio has since been licensed to two companies: Great Lakes Crystals, which was created to pursue industrial diamond applications and Cove Diamond, which was created to create synthetic gemstones for the custom jewelry market.
  • Dr. Sonali Kurup, Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Ferris State University’s College of Pharmacy, received an ADVANCE grant to develop novel small molecule EGFR/AURK inhibitors to treat multi-resistant lung cancer. This funding has supported further development leading to a US patent application, with follow-on funding in FY21 of $377,805, from the NIH National Cancer Institute and a Fast Forward Medical Innovation Kickstart grant from the MTRAC Life Sciences Innovation Hub.
  • Dr. Chinedum Okwudire, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at U-M, leveraged several of the MEDC-funded programs to help de-risk and develop his 3D printing vibration reduction technology. The ADVANCE grant was a critical first funding step to get Okwudire’s technology from lab idea to early stage proof of concept. Afterward, Okwudire also received a Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization Advanced Transportation kick-start and full project funding to continue to develop and de-risk his technology. Now, Chinedum has launched his startup, Ulendo, to commercialize his technology.

“We are excited by the impact that the ADVANCE program has made at research universities all across the state of Michigan,” said Richard Chylla, Executive Director, Michigan State University Technologies. “These modest grants have been successful in advancing and de-risking university early stage technology so that both existing and startup companies were able to take over the technology and commercialize products for the benefit of the public. This has enhanced the reputation of our universities, created public-private partnerships with industry, and created jobs in Michigan. Michigan State University is proud and excited to administer this program on behalf of MEDC and the research universities in Michigan.”

On January 26, 2021, the MSF Board approved support for a Request for Proposals process to identify an administrator for the University Early Stage Proof of Concept-ADVANCE Fund in the amount of $250,000 for one year. Michigan State University submitted a proposal through that RFP process that would ensure they are able to effectively continue to administer the program over the next year.

In addition to the University Early Stage Proof of Concept-ADVANCE Fund, today the Michigan Strategic Fund also approved new talent initiatives, business expansions and community revitalization projects along with other actions that will continue to strengthen Michigan’s economy and position the state for future prosperity. Read more about these announcements here.

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 For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.