Michigan Tech Among Six Universities Collaborating on $5M Venture Fund, Consortium


Michigan Technological University is one of six public universities partnering to establish the $5 million Michigan University Innovation Capital Fund (MUICF) and the Michigan University Innovation Capital Consortium. 

The Michigan Innovate Capital Fund has awarded the partnership $5 million to fund both programs, which share the goal of supporting pre-seed startups and early-stage companies across Michigan. The MUICF will drive economic development by supporting cutting-edge research and technology transfer from Michigan’s public universities — including Michigan Tech.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced the award, which solidifies the state’s support of its universities’ innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. The award will be administered by the University of Michigan’s (U-M’s) Innovation Partnerships. Other partners include Michigan State University, Michigan State University Research Foundation, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. 

“In Michigan, we are building on our state’s economic momentum by supporting a thriving knowledge economy,” said Gilchrist. “With this support from the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan University Innovation Capital Fund will help harness Michigan innovation within our robust university system and support startups across our state as they grow our economy and create good-paying, high-tech jobs. Congratulations to the University of Michigan’s Innovation Partnerships and its university partners on this collaborative, impactful effort.”

The MUICF is designed to support and invest in startup companies that are based on research from Michigan’s public universities, operate in the state and demonstrate high potential for driving economic growth and innovation. The comprehensive application highlighted these universities’ dedication to driving positive change through collaborative research and commercialization of technological advancements.

“I’m pleased to be able to collaborate with the U-M Innovation Partnerships team as they create this new funding mechanism for university startups across our state,” said Jim Baker, Associate Vice President for Research Administration at Michigan Tech. “There is tremendous ingenuity and exciting research taking place at Michigan Tech, and this new fund will open up more doors for our faculty and researchers. By having a dedicated venture fund that understands the unique challenges facing university startups, MUICF will ensure that they are positioned to create high-paying jobs and economic opportunity throughout our state.”

Patrick Visser, Chief Commercial Officer at MTEC SmartZone, a business and technology incubator based in Houghton, Michigan, said he is pleased that Michigan Tech is a partner in the new MUICF and consortium. “MTEC and MTU have worked collaboratively for years in our shared objective of building and supporting startup technology companies emanating from the innovative research conducted at MTU,” said Visser. “Funding for early-stage university startups is a significant area of need, and this will have an enormous impact to help bridge the gap from research to successful commercialization, revenues and high-wage job creation in the region.”

In addition to the new venture fund, the $5 million award will support the establishment of the Michigan University Innovation Capital Consortium, a platform that brings together university tech transfer and university managed pre-seed venture fund leaders. The consortium will provide advisory and strategic support to the fund and portfolio companies through knowledge exchange, networking, resource-sharing and fostering a collaborative environment where innovative ideas can support the state’s startups coming from Michigan’s public universities. 

“We are thrilled to receive this award from the MEDC to create and develop the Michigan University Innovation Capital Fund and Consortium,” said Kelly Sexton, Associate Vice President of Research - Innovation Partnerships and Economic Impact at the University of Michigan. “This new fund will provide critical early-stage investments to university startups that are developing world-changing new products. I look forward to collaborating with university tech transfer offices across Michigan, as we continue to strengthen our state’s research commercialization ecosystem to unlock the transformative power of university innovation.”

Rebecca Cunningham, Vice President for Research and Innovation at U-M said, “Collaboration is essential if we want to accelerate innovation, and so I am incredibly excited to see how the Michigan University Innovation Capital Fund and Consortium will create synergies between academia, venture capital and industry, facilitating the flow of ideas, expertise and resources to help build a brighter future for our great state. This collaborative approach with peer institutions statewide is vital to ensure that research activity emanating from across Michigan’s public universities not only addresses the challenges of today, but contributes to the growth and prosperity of tomorrow.”

Initial members of the consortium include investors and tech transfer leaders from U-M, Michigan State University, Michigan State University Research Foundation, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Michigan Technological University. During the past six years, these universities have launched an average of 26 technology-based startups per year. Michael Psarouthakis, Executive Director for Impact Investments and Strategic Alliances within Innovation Partnerships, will oversee the MUICF. 

“Through initiatives like the Michigan Innovate Capital Fund, this award to Innovation Partnerships will help increase the amount of capital being invested in Michigan-based competitive edge technology companies,” said Amy Rencher, Senior Vice President of Small Business Services at the MEDC. “This collaborative program in particular will support the research and innovative ideas born out of Michigan’s thriving university ecosystem, while also diversifying and growing the state’s economy.”

MUICF builds upon the commercialization success of five MEDC grant programs that operate statewide, including the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program that has hubs managed by Michigan Tech (advanced materials), U-M (life sciences and advanced transportation), Michigan State University (agricultural and industrial biotechnology), and Wayne State University (advanced computer technologies). Additionally, the new fund builds off the success of the Tech Transfer Talent Network Mentor-in-Residence program operating throughout the state of Michigan.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.