TechTown Detroit, Regional Partners Launch Mobility Accelerator Network

TechTown Detroit has announced the launch of the Mobility Accelerator Innovation Network (MAIN) as one of six components of the Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM) initiative.
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TechTown staff
Techtown and seven regional partners are developing a program to make Detroit and Michigan the epicenter of mobility startup companies. // Photo courtesy of TechTown

TechTown Detroit has announced the launch of the Mobility Accelerator Innovation Network (MAIN) as one of six components of the Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM) initiative.

Beginning in late 2021, the Detroit Regional Partnership led a coalition that includes Michigan Economic Development Corp., Southeast Michigan Community Alliance (SEMCA) in coordination with Michigan Works!, State of Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, TechTown Detroit, and University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute.

MAIN’s role in the coalition is to accelerate the growth of mobility startups that drive innovation to fill gaps in the mobility value chain.

The Global Epicenter of Mobility was selected out of 60 finalists nationwide to receive the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant and was awarded $52.2 million.

Additional support from General Motors Co. in Detroit and the William Davidson Foundation in Bloomfield Hills has been leveraged to make the project possible. TechTown received a total of $12.4 million to focus on creating a program alongside its partners to serve and capitalize on mobility startups from the idea stage through commercial scale.

The seven organizations partnering to support MAIN include Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Design Core Detroit at the College for Creative Studies, Endeavor Detroit, Invest Detroit, Michigan Founders Fund, University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, with TechTown serving as the coordinating partner.

“MAIN will allow Detroit to remain at the forefront of innovation in the mobility sector as we transition to a new electrified, autonomous, and connected reality,” says Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown Detroit.

By creating and connecting a robust, comprehensive startup ecosystem, the partnership will advance the state’s mobility and electrification leadership and build on Michigan’s economic momentum fundamentally changing the game for early-stage companies in the mobility space in Detroit, he adds.

“General Motors is thrilled to work with TechTown Detroit to support the MAIN program,” says Terry Rhadigan, vice president of corporate giving for General Motors. “This is another great way we’re working toward an all-electric future and investing in our headquarters’ city and its entrepreneurial community.”

Historically, tech and mobility founders have had to navigate a disconnected array of entrepreneurship support providers to find the assistance and help they need. MAIN will solve that problem by cultivating and growing commercialization programs focused on mobility, including relevant software and hardware licensing, and business creation at two research universities.

MAIN will also develop the Michigan Mobility Fund Network to help startups access capital by engaging venture capital firms and various angel networks while supporting founders through entrepreneurship education related to venture capital readiness.

Martin Dober, senior vice president with Invest Detroit and managing director of ID Ventures says his organization will play a key role in the creation of the Michigan Mobility Fund Network.

“We are excited to partner with TechTown as a partner with the MAIN program to lead and coordinate venture capital funds that will support mobility startups in the region,” says Dober. “MAIN is important for the region’s leadership in mobility and will help build the talent, infrastructure, and support for mobility startups that will lead to future jobs.”

MAIN will start by creating a quality map for entrepreneurs, identifying regional assets that optimally serve mobility founders, and growing a strong understanding of the appropriateness of each offering based on the companies’ stage of development, the nature of their idea, and product/process readiness.

MAIN will also ensure that mobility companies will have access to an array of opportunities that support their connection to the community. This includes events, workshops, and other activities that will create founder-to-founder mentorship connections, business partnership opportunities, awareness of mobility supply-chain needs and opportunities, and more.

“I’m thrilled to have Wayne State University’s Office of Business Innovation & Technology Commercialization serve as part of the MAIN Program,” says Lindsay Klee, executive director of WSU’s Office of Business Innovation & Technology Commercialization. “We are passionate about augmenting regional collaborative efforts as well as advancing our University Innovation pipeline focused on mobility hardware and software technologies and affiliated corporate innovation engagements.”

Don L. Tuski, president of College for Creative Studies, says that designers and design businesses are integral to building truly inclusive mobility solutions, which are desperately needed locally and globally.

“For more than 100 years, College for Creative has proudly developed the creative talent that has propelled many Michigan industries, from automotive and tech to furniture and more,” says Tuski.

He adds that this is important because as stewards of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, CCS’s Design Core Detroit has championed Detroit’s strength in inclusive design and its design community.

To learn more about the GEM initiative, visit here.