U-M’s Innovation Partnerships awarded $5M to establish new statewide venture fund

January 29, 2024

The University of Michigan’s Innovation Partnerships has received $5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to establish the Michigan University Innovation Capital Fund and Michigan University Innovation Capital Consortium.

This venture fund will solidify the state’s university research commercialization ecosystem through a partnership between U-M, Michigan State University, Michigan State University Research Foundation, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Michigan Technological University. The fund will drive economic development by supporting the growth of startups 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, U-M associate vice president of research, innovation partnerships and economic impact.

“This new venture capital 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.”

The fund aims to support and invest in startup companies based on research from public universities, operate in the state and demonstrate high potential for driving economic growth and innovation.

The money also supports establishing the Michigan University Innovation Capital Consortium, a platform that brings together university tech transfer offices 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.

“Collaboration is essential if we want to accelerate innovation, and so I am incredibly excited to see how the 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,” said Rebecca Cunningham, U-M vice president for research and innovation.

“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 consortium members include investors and tech transfer leaders from the partner universities. During the past six years, they have launched an average of 26 technology-based startups annually.

Michael Psarouthakis, Innovation Partnerships’ executive director for impact investments and strategic alliances, will oversee the fund.

The venture fund builds on the commercialization success of five MEDC grant programs that operate statewide, including the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program that has hubs managed by U-M (life sciences and advanced transportation), MSU (agricultural technologies and industrial biotechnology), Wayne State (advanced computer technologies) and Michigan Tech (advanced materials).

The new fund also builds off the success of the Tech Transfer Talent Network Mentor-in-Residence program operating throughout the state.