Lt. Gov. Gilchrist Announces $5 Million to Establish a New Venture Fund Supporting the State’s University Innovation and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

LANSING, Mich. – Today, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II joined the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to announce the final awardee selected to receive support from the Michigan Innovate Capital Fund (MICF), a program representing the state’s efforts to continue growing a vibrant and robust entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The University of Michigan’s (U-M’s) Innovation Partnerships team was awarded $5 million to establish the Michigan University Innovation Capital Fund (MUICF) and the Michigan University Innovation Capital Consortium, solidifying the state’s university ecosystem through a collaborative partnership between Michigan State University, Michigan State University Research Foundation, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Michigan Technological University. The MUICF will drive economic development by supporting cutting-edge research and technology transfer from Michigan’s public universities.

“Michigan has always been a state of dreamers, innovators, and doers,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “The MUICF will unleash Michigan innovation and imagination within our university ecosystem and support startups across the state as they grow our economy and create good-paying, high-tech jobs. Congratulations to the University of Michigan’s Innovation Partnerships and their partners on this collaborative effort to keep Michigan in the lead on the jobs, technology, and ideas of the future.”

The MUICF is designed to support and invest in startup companies that are based on research from Michigan’s public universities, operate in the state and demonstrate high potential for driving economic growth and innovation. The comprehensive application highlighted these universities’ dedication to driving positive change through collaborative research and commercialization of technological advancements.

“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, Associate Vice President of Research – Innovation Partnerships and Economic Impact at the University of Michigan. “This new 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.”

In addition to the new venture fund, the $5 million award will support the establishment of the Michigan University Innovation Capital Consortium, a platform that brings together university tech transfer 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.

“I’m pleased to be able to collaborate with the U-M Innovation Partnerships team as they create this new funding mechanism for university startups across our state,” said Jim Baker, Associate Vice President for Research Administration at Michigan Technological University. “There is tremendous ingenuity and exciting research taking place at Michigan Tech, and this new fund will open up more doors for our faculty and researchers. By having a dedicated venture fund that understands the unique challenges facing university startups, MUICF will ensure that they are positioned to create high-paying jobs and economic opportunity throughout our state.”

“Collaboration is essential if we want to accelerate innovation, and so I am incredibly excited to see how the Michigan University Innovation Capital 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, Vice President for Research and Innovation at U-M. “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 members of the consortium include investors and tech transfer leaders from U-M, Michigan State University, Michigan State University Research Foundation, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Michigan Technological University. During the past six years, these universities have launched an average of 26 technology-based startups per year. Michael Psarouthakis, Executive Director for Impact Investments and Strategic Alliances within Innovation Partnerships, will oversee the MUICF.

“Through initiatives like the Michigan Innovate Capital Fund, this award to Innovation Partnerships will help increase the amount of capital being invested in Michigan-based competitive edge technology companies,” said Amy Rencher, Senior Vice President of Small Business Services at the MEDC. “This collaborative program in particular will support the research and innovative ideas born out of Michigan’s thriving university ecosystem, while also diversifying and growing the state’s economy.”

In October 2023, it was announced that Ann Arbor SPARK, Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center (BRCC), Invest Detroit and InvestUP received $18 million in funding from the MICF program, which was approved by the MSF Board in June. The program received a $23 million allocation from the Jobs for Michigan investment fund, with MUICF receiving the remaining $5 million.

MUICF builds upon 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), Michigan State University (agricultural technologies and industrial biotechnology), Wayne State University (advanced computer technologies) and Michigan Technological University (advanced materials). Additionally, the new fund builds off the success of the Tech Transfer Talent Network Mentor-in-Residence program operating throughout the state of Michigan.

This story was originally published by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.


About the MSU Innovation Center: 

The MSU Innovation Center is dedicated to fostering innovation, research commercialization, and entrepreneurial activities from the research and discovery happening across our campus every day. We act as the primary interface for researchers aiming to see their research applied to solving real-world problems and making the world a better place to live. We aim to empower faculty, researchers, and students within our community of scholars by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to bring their discoveries to the forefront. Through strategic collaborations with the private sector, we aim to amplify the impact of faculty research and drive economic growth while positively impacting society. We foster mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with the private sector through corporate-sponsored research collaborations, technology licensing discussions, and support for faculty entrepreneurs to support the establishment of startup companies.   

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