The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Technological University recently awarded a combined $165,000 in funding to three projects from researchers across the state.

These projects — led by researchers at Michigan Tech and Michigan State University — strive to address crucial global issues such as metal 3D printing of complex components, improving machining methods of lightweight irons, and achieving mirror-like finishing of molds. Funded through the Michigan Strategic Fund and administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the MTRAC Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub supports materials-based technologies offering novel materials and novel applications of conventional materials that address well-documented market needs.

“The awards from the MTRAC Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Tech will help researchers bring their innovative, early-stage projects closer to commercialization,” said Denise Graves, university relations director at the MEDC. “These projects have the potential to solve some challenging issues, and we look forward to seeing how the funding and mentorship help them complete their milestones over the coming year.”

After successfully presenting their proposals to a 10-person oversight committee of venture capitalists, materials experts and entrepreneurs, the researchers will use the awarded funding and mentorship from the program to further develop their projects on a path toward commercialization. The three projects funded by the hub will have the potential to positively affect manufacturing efficiency and reduce waste around the world:

Researchers at Michigan Tech will seek to enable a low-cost metal 3D printing solution of extremely complex parts to reduce production time and significantly reduce scrap when compared to subtractive machining methods.
Researchers at Michigan State will develop new binders and cutting tools to improve the machinability of lighter irons.
Another team of Michigan State University researchers will address the ever-shrinking workforce available in polishing applications and allow businesses to continue operations with improved automated processes for mirror-like finishes.

“Investments by MEDC in the MTRAC program are invaluable in enabling and accelerating the generation of economic value from university research activities by advancing early stage technologies toward commercialization. The project funding, as well as the guidance from the oversight committee, fills an essential role in the process of transforming these exciting new technologies from laboratory discoveries into products and services offered by established or startup companies which result in opportunities for increased employment and other societal and financial impacts,” said Jim Baker, associate vice president for research at MTU.

To date, the Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Tech has reviewed 44 proposals and supported 11 projects from researchers across Michigan. The hub is part of a network of statewide innovation hubs that include the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Life Sciences at the University of Michigan FFMI, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for AgBio at Michigan State University, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation at the University of Michigan and the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Computing at Wayne State University. Each hub is strategically located at a university strong in the sector, further increasing the quality and quantity of resources available.

The MTRAC program itself is supported by funds from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) and administered by the MEDC, with additional funding coming from partner institutions. Through March, MTRAC programs have received 745 proposals, funded 336 projects, developed 64 startup companies, licensed 49 technologies to industry partners and secured more than $249 million in follow-on funding.

MEDC’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation initiative establishes Michigan as the place to create and grow a business by providing high-tech startup companies with access to a variety of critical resources, such as funding and expert counsel, from ideation to maturation. For more information on MEDC’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation, please visit www.michiganbusiness.org/entrepreneurship.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy.

Source: MTRAC, MTU announce funding for project addressing human, environmental health issues