U-M celebrates its inventors, startups

October 15, 2018
Contact: Greta Guest gguest@umich.edu
(From left) Greg Peterson of LimnoTech, Peter Adriaens, U-M business and engineering professor, and Tad Slawecki of LimnoTech. Image courtesy: Tech Transfer

(From left) Greg Peterson of LimnoTech, Peter Adriaens, U-M business and engineering professor, and Tad Slawecki of LimnoTech. Image courtesy: Tech Transfer

ANN ARBOR—The road to Peter Adriaens’ startup stretches back to 2008 when electricity plants in the south were experiencing droughts and had to power down.

Adriaens, a business and engineering professor at the University of Michigan, was working with MBA students on a project to figure out how to provide data to companies about water resources to navigate such fluctuations. Over time, he realized that the client for such data wasn’t the individual company, but the investors in the company.

Equarius Risk Analytics is a fintech company that provides a software platform to compute water risk in securities and financial asset portfolios. Water risk is considered a larger problem than carbon—impacting $145 trillion of securities. The company’s waterBeta model integrates water risk data with corporate financial metrics to price water risk in a security’s performance.

“Others work with the liquid part of water. We work with the liquidity of water,” Adriaens said.

Equarius was one of the first U-M startups for fiscal year 2019, which began July 1. The university will recognize the accomplishments of faculty and researchers during the 18th annual Celebrate Invention reception 3-6 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Michigan League.

Organized and hosted by the Office of Technology Transfer, the event highlights some of the 484 inventions reported by U-M researchers in fiscal year 2018. It also features networking with business, venture, university and community leaders.

The number of startups launched at U-M nearly doubled in fiscal year 2018 to 21. The event includes examples of U-M technology at work in kiosks where you can meet members of U-M’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Mingyan Liu, professor and entrepreneur specializing in communication networks and predictive analytics, and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the College of Engineering, will receive the 2018 U-M Distinguished Innovator Award during the reception.

Before the reception from 1-3 p.m., panel discussions and a translational funding fair have been added for the first time. Representatives from 25 different funds that U-M inventors have access to will be available to answer questions.

Andrei Iancu, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will speak about the importance of American innovation.

U-M startups are offered guidance and resources from the Tech Transfer Venture Center, which is a starting point for entrepreneurs and investors looking for startup opportunities based on U-M research.

“The license isn’t the end of the relationship. It’s just the beginning,” said Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships at U-M. “We’re really creating a culture that supports our entrepreneurs.”

As for Equarius, the company is getting its data to the index provider. Adriaens said it should be listed on Factset this fall. It plans to build three indices that would be listed on a financial platform. The indexing technology was developed with LimnoTech, an Ann Arbor environmental services firm, and licensed from U-M.

Richard Greeley, a senior licensing specialist for engineering at Tech Transfer, said that Adriaens came to his office more prepared than most.

“Peter did all the legwork,” Greeley said.

“He said, ‘You actually know how to price this, who to sell it to and how to market it?'” Adriaens said.

Greeley, former director of licensing for Microsoft, said, “When this happens, I don’t have to do all those things. Having an engaged inventor is the dream.”

Celebrate Invention is free, but registration is required at techtransfer.umich.edu/celebrate-invention.