U-M’s Perot Jain TechLab program enables entrepreneurial experience for technical students
Newly renamed and boosted with new funding, Perot Jain TechLab connects students with startups to explore new technology applications
Enrollment opens today for the Perot Jain TechLab program at the University of Michigan, which is supported with $2 million total over the next two years from the venture capital firm Perot Jain, Ford Motor Co. and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
The course, which has been running as TechLab at Mcity since 2016, pairs undergraduate and master’s students studying engineering, computer science and data analytics with emerging transportation startups. Perot Jain, Ford and the state of Michigan share an interest in growing the talent pipeline for developing these technologies and bringing them to market.
“We’re incredibly proud of the partnerships with Perot Jain, Ford and the Office of Future Mobility to enhance and expand our programming,” said Nick Moroz, director of entrepreneurial practice at U-M’s Center for Entrepreneurship. “This will enable a richer experience for more students, providing them with cutting-edge resources for their projects and more career opportunities postgraduation.”
At its inception, Perot Jain TechLab connected students with mobility startups through a partnership with U-M’s Mcity, which runs the world’s first purpose-built testing environment for connected and automated vehicles. The students work with future mobility startups that are past the earliest stages, with a set of investors who hold equity in the company. Their projects explore how existing technologies might be applied to solve different problems in advanced mobility.
“The classes taught me the intricacies of starting a business and gave a fresh perspective on the autonomous vehicle industry,” said Niyanta Mehra, an alumnus of the U-M College of Engineering who worked with Adastec, which develops software for automated buses.
The program has been equally satisfying for industry partners.
“Our partnership with TechLab at Mcity was one of Carmera’s most enduring and productive research collaborations,” said Ro Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Carmera, an HD mapping startup acquired by Woven by Toyota in 2021. “Having worked with two cohorts of U-M students over four semesters, I can point to the direct, tangible impact the students had on some of the most important components of the Carmera tech stack.
“The support we and the students received from TechLab and Mcity was critical in making our work together successful, and the advantages of working onsite in Michigan—both for proximity to important industry constituents and for key environmental/weather exposure—were indispensable.”
The new sponsors will not only financially support the program, but will also help identify startups and technologies that are right for Perot Jain Techlab. For instance, the expanded program will include emerging companies focused on vehicle electrification and carbon sequestration in addition to connected and automated vehicles. The sponsors will also provide experts as guest speakers to help students understand industry’s cutting edge and the opportunities and challenges there.
“Investing in the future of entrepreneurship is investing in the future of innovation, and we are proud to support the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship in their efforts to foster the next generation of industry-transforming companies,” said Anurag Jain, founding partner of Perot Jain and alumnus of U-M’s Ross School of Business.
“Our commitment to partnering with entrepreneurs is rooted in our belief that disruptive ideas can change the world, and the Perot Jain TechLab series will provide a platform for the next generation of game-changers to cultivate and realize their vision.”
Beyond future mobility, the Perot Jain TechLab program is seeking more partners to help build emerging technologies in health care, space and cybersecurity. The program aims to add these offerings over the next three years.