MTRAC Innovation Hub invests $700K in advanced transportation


The university’s Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization statewide Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation has awarded $700,000 to 10 technologies with commercial potential aimed at addressing transportation issues and opportunities.

The MTRAC program is designed to support high-tech advanced transportation projects from institutions of higher education, non-profit research centers and hospital systems across the state to help them get out of the lab and into the market.

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Six of the 10 recipients are from the University of Michigan. MTRAC partners with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative.

“Michigan firms continue to lead in applying technology to create the future of transportation and mobility, and we are excited to add the cutting-edge research from our state’s universities to this effort,” said Eric Petersen, MTRAC advanced transportation program director.

“These researcher teams are exceptionally talented and hard-working and their technologies will enable safer, lower cost, less polluting forms of transportation.”

Projects receiving up to $100,000 in funding are:

• Advanced Wireless Technology (U-M): An advanced wireless system that provides long coverage range and high data rate connectivity to enable autonomous vehicle data flow and infotainment data flow.

• All-Weather LIDARs System for Autonomous Vehicles (U-M): Light detection and ranging (LIDAR) system that provides improved object recognition, particularly in inclement weather, and packages into various vehicle designs.

• Coaxial Thermophone for Active Noise Control in Vehicles (Michigan Technological University): Carbon nanotube thin-film thermophone wrapped coaxially around an exhaust pipe to actively control noise at low system size and weight.

• Durable, Elastomeric, Antimicrobial Coatings with Instant and Persistent Efficacy (U-M): Antimicrobial coatings for high touch interior surfaces (such as dashboards, handholds, cup holders and touch screens) of transportation vehicles.

• High-Resolution RADAR Imaging for Autonomous Vehicles (Michigan State University): Millimeter-wave distributed RADAR imager for high resolution imaging which operates in all weather conditions and costs less than existing LIDAR systems.

• Self-Powered IoT for Smart Manufacturing and Transportation (U-M): Vibration energy harvester with high-power density, wide operation bandwidth, multi-axis operation capability, and low cost for powering nodes of the internet of things.

Projects receiving up to $35,000 in kickstart funding include:

• Boosting the Accuracy of High-Speed 3-D Printers (U-M): Software that applies vibration compensation algorithms to improve printer accuracy without compromising its speed.

• Multi-Color Irradiation System for Ultra Rapid Additive Manufacturing (U-M): High speed, 3-D printer system which creates parts through projecting irradiation patterns into resin.

• Prediction of Fatigue Property of Materials & Components Based on Hardness Data (Western Michigan University): Hardness-based method and procedure for estimation of high cycle fatigue properties of steels.

• Virtual RSW Weldability Prediction (Wayne State University): System that enables increased efficiency of weldability analysis for new weld joint designs.

A 15-member oversight committee of venture capital professionals, industry experts from leading transportation firms, and experienced entrepreneurs reviewed 26 proposals from six universities.

The capability to identify opportunities in the transportation space and propose effective solutions, in tandem with researcher team strength and commercialization plans, were the leading factors considered during funding decisions.

U-M has been administering the MTRAC Advanced Transportation program since 2012. Over the course of six years the program has received 91 project proposals, funding 34 of them and generating over $47 million in follow-on funding.

Due to the program’s success, U-M gained statewide status in February 2017 to serve as an innovation hub for advanced transportation projects from research settings across Michigan. The Innovation Hub is run jointly with the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Office of Technology Transfer.

“Michigan is uniquely committed to leveraging the talent, network and infrastructure we possess within our state by creating powerful collaborations to grow and build our entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Denise Graves, university relations director at the MEDC.

“Investing in our research and our talent through statewide models like MTRAC is vital in achieving our mission of growing our state’s economy through university technology transfer, and paving the path for bringing new technologies related to mobility into the commercial market.”

U-M is one of four universities with a MTRAC program, joining Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Wayne State. Each university focuses on a different industry, including agriculture biology, advanced applied materials, life sciences, advanced transportation and biomedical.

In collaboration with the host universities, supported by the Michigan Strategic Fund and managed by the MEDC Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative, MTRAC programs have funded 169 projects, helped develop 32 startup companies, created 101 jobs, secured over $132 million in follow-on funding, and licensed technology to 22 companies to date.

Funding for the new round of Innovation Hub projects begins Aug. 1 and runs through July 31, 2019. The Statewide U-M MTRAC Innovation Hub Transportation program will accept new applications beginning in January 2019.


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