TRAVERSE CITY – The University of Michigan Technical University and Traverse City are more than 360 miles from the Mackinac Bridge.
A new program between 20Fathoms and the University of the Upper Peninsula aims to bridge the gap between the two. An agreement on advancing campus research was finalized earlier this year to help turn ideas into start-ups in northern Michigan.
Eric Roberts, executive director of the Traverse City 20Fthoms incubator, said the partnership benefits Michigan Tech and the region’s strong start-up ecosystem.
“It’s a win-win for them every time they turn some of this research into a startup,” Roberts said. “We have so many things here that can do the job. We have people, we have capital and we have 20 Fathoms to do the incubation. “
“The university has a large amount of research that produces discoveries with significant commercial potential, but one of our biggest challenges in bringing these discoveries to market is recruiting people with business experience in technology start-ups that can join our companies and to take the lead in relocating companies in partnership with our technical experts, ”said in a statement Jim Baker, associate vice president of research administration at Michigan Tech.
Michigan Tech professors receive grants to carry out various research projects, but these ideas often do not go through the initial phase. Roberts said this is where 20Fathoms intervenes to “bridge the gap” from basic research to commercial ventures.
He said it could be “difficult to imagine what a business looks like” while working in a higher education environment.
“We need to find the right ideas for the right people in Traverse City to advance research into starting a business,” Roberts said.
While Michigan Tech is doing “what they do” in developing ideas for innovation, Roberts said 20Fathoms will put “working people” in the equation.
“As Jim Baker said, think about 5 to 15 hours a week for three to nine months to take this test and go through the first or two stages,” Roberts said.
He has identified 6 to 10 people who are willing to take the time to come up with an idea for Michigan Tech and work on developing it into a business startup or company, which he calls “resident entrepreneurs.” Roberts said he is always looking for more from these entrepreneurs while living in Traverse City.
The partnership between 20Fathoms and Tech could lead to licensing of the technology from the university, which could lead to additional funding for MTU, as well as stimulate the regional economy of Northern Michigan.
“We are very excited to continue working with 20Fathoms to address this challenge in a way that leads to economic growth for both our regions,” Baker said in a statement.
Roberts took over as CEO of 20Fathoms in September 2021 and a month later was on the Michigan Tech campus, talking to Baker and other employees, including a professor involved in the study.
“It’s a pretty cool program,” Roberts said. I’ve been working with Jim Baker upstairs almost since I came here.
There were additional meetings earlier this winter.
During Northern Michigan Launch Week, Tech Innovation and Commercialization officials visited Traverse City to discuss “a number of ongoing commercialization projects in areas including 3-D printing, renewable energy, plastics recycling and advanced batteries.” “, According to a statement.
The May 10 meeting was held at Michigan Tech’s Traverse City research workspace in the Traverse Connect building at 202 Grandview Parkway.
20Fathoms has attracted several members of the local start-up business community. The meeting included not only angel investors and venture capitalists and advisors, but also people working in the field of human resources and law.
“We wanted to have a room full of people who could raise entrepreneurship, as well as the entrepreneurs themselves,” Roberts said.
Michigan Tech presented six projects at the Traverse City table. Roberts said one of them had already come out of the ground while several others were under consideration.
“We have a lot of legal grip,” Roberts said.
The face-to-face meeting on May 10 happened in part because the university was a big part of Northern Michigan’s launch week, which ran from May 9 to 15.
The Huskies also took part in the University Idea Showcase on May 12. Bayle Golden and Roarke Sylvain finished in second place and were chosen by audience favorites after Golden unveiled SafeRow, a wearable child safety device.
Golden also participated in the Startup Weekend and mentored the Tech Girls Club team from Traverse City Central, which competes in the May 13 Northwest Michigan Student Competition.
Although Golden’s SafeRow will not be part of 20Fathoms’ research program, it is another example of a partnership between Traverse City and Houghton.
“I am absolutely committed to continuing my relationship with Michigan Tech,” Roberts said.
Michigan Tech recently announced that it will offer a hybrid master’s degree in business administration, where classes will be held weekly through Zoom at the Workspace Research Center, which opened in October 2021.
Michigan Tech and members of the board of directors of the Grand Traverse Area Michigan Tech, chaired by the CEO of Promethient Inc. Bill Myers signed a “Memorandum of Understanding designed to explore opportunities for cooperation” in the region, according to an earlier publication.
Michigan Tech and Northwestern Michigan College also signed a deal allowing engineering students to transfer two-year NMC credits to MTU.
The 2 + 2 program allowed students in several different engineering fields to transfer 60 credits to Michigan Tech, depending on the program, and arrive at MTU as a junior.
An extended agreement earlier in 2021 allowed associate engineering students to transfer 73 credits from the NMC to the MTU.