The University of Michigan solidified its position as a global leader in translating academic research and technology for broad societal impact during fiscal year 2021-22, generating 433 new inventions and 16 new startup companies.
The new activity, reported Nov. 22 by Innovation Partnerships, a unit based in the Office of the Vice President for Research, ranges in scope from genetic data accessibility to internet interfaces for the visually impaired.
U-M startups had a particularly notable year, raising $760 million in capital and continuing to make substantial strides in commercialization.
One such startup, Genomenon, an artificial intelligence-driven genomics company, raised more than $20 million in Series B financing during FY ’22, which ended June 30. The funds will be used to expand the company’s commercial operations and support the development of its genomic data hub, which will allow health-care systems to more easily access genetic data.
NewHaptics is another U-M startup that saw success during FY ’22. NewHaptics is working to commercialize a new method of internet interface for the visually impaired. The company’s patented tactile display technology, dubbed the “Holy Braille Project,” can be used in portable “screens,” which allows for the delivery of multiple lines of braille in a single compact field.
“Thanks to our strong partnerships with U-M’s amazing community of innovators, we can report a successful fiscal year with a strong showing in commercialization agreements, invention disclosures, new startup company formation and industry collaboration,” said Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research and innovation partnerships.
“I’m proud of the U-M research ecosystem for continuing to provide us with such amazing innovations to foster. And with the creation of our new Corporate Research Alliances team, we are positioned to provide even better service to U-M faculty in the years to come.”
Corporate Research Alliances is a new faculty service unit within Innovation Partnerships that helps university researchers establish research collaborations with industry. The team’s first year resulted in 94 new corporate-sponsored research awards totaling $37.4 million, thanks in part to the direct relationship and negotiation support provided by CRA staff.
The new team also manages large corporate research collaborations, including those with Ford, Great Lakes Discovery, and the Toyota Research Institute. CRA plans to continue to create, grow and sustain these partnerships and alliances by providing access to faculty research expertise, laboratory capabilities, inventions and faculty startup companies.
In addition, Innovation Partnerships has continued to grow its financial support of U-M startups through venture capital provided by the Accelerate Blue Fund, the evergreen venture fund it manages.
During FY ’22, the Accelerate Blue Fund invested in:
- Ecovia Renewables, which provides water-soluble polymer solutions for personal care, agriculture and industrial applications.
- MountainPass, a faculty position management software.
- Cubeworks, offering a temperature and geolocation real-time monitoring hardware and SAAS solution for pharma cold tracking.
“Our research community continues to generate and implement innovative products and solutions that transform, improve and enhance the world around us,” said Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research.
“The U-M research community has really cultivated an ecosystem for innovation, and because of this, U-M is consistently recognized nationally for its technology commercialization efforts. With the leadership, support and expertise of our Innovation Partnerships team, we are better positioned than ever before to ensure that every U-M innovation has a chance to positively impact the world.”