U-M Receives $4.4M to Advance Innovation, Entrepreneurship


The Detroit-based William Davidson Foundation has awarded $4.4 million to the University of Michigan to support programs that encourage innovation that can take student and faculty ideas to the next level.

“Entrepreneurship is thriving at the University of Michigan,” says Mary Sue Coleman, president of the university. “Our faculty and students are committed to developing new technologies and systems to strengthen the Michigan economy, and we are grateful for the support of the William Davidson Foundation to help ensure our momentum.”

The U-M Medical School’s Fast Forward Medical Innovation effort, which drives technology commercialization based on the ideas of its faculty scientists and physicians, will receive $2.9 million over three years. The funding will enable programs to more deeply engage faculty and “mine” for promising projects, to broaden efforts to promote innovation and commercialization, and to create new commercialization education, training, and mentoring opportunities for inventors and entrepreneurs, say university officials.

The grant will help strengthen the state’s biotech sector, says Dr. Kevin Ward, executive director.  “We are committed to being a force multiplier for biomedical innovation in the state of Michigan and on the world stage. This investment by the Davidson Foundation will help us more quickly bring new technologies and innovations to patients and families, and nurture a culture of commercialization and entrepreneurship for tomorrow.”

The foundation will also provide $1.5 million over two years for programs at the U-M Office of Technology Transfer and Center for Entrepreneurship. As a result, the tech transfer office will launch the Digital Discovery Center, which will provide resources to encourage, assess, and accelerate innovations in software and other digital matter.

Given a boost in health-related applications that can provide access, cost-reduction, and treatment advantages, the initial focus will be on digital health applications, says Kenneth Nisbet, U-M’s associate vice president for research-tech transfer.

“The Digital Discovery Center will encourage our faculty and students to work with digital applications, expand our capabilities and resources, and accelerate our partnerships with the business and venture communities,” Nisbet says.

In addition, the funding will support the launch of the MGoForward Program at the Center for Entrepreneurship at the U-M College of Engineering. The investment will provide for mentoring, training, and technical support to graduating students whose start-ups show market potential.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Davidson Foundation, we will be able to accelerate the ambitions of many young companies by providing a portfolio of new resources and expertise all focused on the specific needs of recent graduates who are already advancing through the entrepreneurial pipeline,” says Tom Frank, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.

The grants provided by the William Davidson Foundation will count toward the $4 billion goal of the Victors for Michigan campaign.