TRAVERSE CITY – Michigan Tech University and Traverse City are more than 360 miles apart by road and Mackinac Bridge.
A new program between 20Fathoms and Upper Peninsula University aims to bridge the gap between the two. Earlier in the year, an agreement was reached to conduct research on campus, helping to turn ideas in northern Michigan into a start-up business.
Eric Roberts, executive director of the 20Fathoms Traverse City incubator, said the partnership is beneficial to Michigan Tech and the region’s strong start-up ecosystem.
“It’s a victory for them every time some of that research becomes an initial opportunity,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of things to do here. If we have people, we have capital and we have 20 Fathoms to incubate. ”
“The university has a high volume of research that generates discoveries with great commercial potential, but one of our biggest challenges in bringing these discoveries to market is hiring people with business experience in technology startups who can join our companies and take a leadership role. moving in collaboration with technicians, ”Jim Baker, vice president of research administration at Michigan Tech, said in a statement.
Michigan Tech teachers receive funding for a variety of research projects, but these ideas often do not go beyond the initial phase. Roberts said 20Fathoms is there to make a “bridge difference” from basic research to commercial endeavor.
He said that “it can be difficult to see what a commercial business is like” while working in a higher education environment.
“We need to get the right ideas in order to advance research into creating new businesses for the right people in Traverse City,” Roberts said.
While Michigan Tech does “what it does” to develop ideas for innovation, Roberts said 20Fathoms will bring “working people” into the equation.
“Like Jim Baker said, think about doing this research for 5 to 15 hours 5 to 15 months a week and passing the first milestone or two,” Roberts said.
He has identified six to 10 people who are willing to take an idea from Michigan Tech and work in a business start-up or business development, which he calls “residential entrepreneurs”. Roberts said he is always looking for more of these entrepreneurs at Traverse City headquarters.
The partnership between 20Fathoms and Tech could lead to university technology licensing, which could lead to additional funding for MTU and boost the economy of the northern Michigan region.
“We are very excited to continue working with 20Fathoms to address this challenge in a way that will drive economic growth for our two regions,” Baker said in a statement.
Roberts took over as executive director at September 2021 at 20Fathoms and a month later was on the Michigan Tech campus talking to Baker and other officials with a professor who was involved in the research.
“It’s a pretty nice program,” Roberts said. “I’ve been working a lot with Jim Baker since I got here.”
There were additional meetings at the beginning of the winter.
At Northern Michigan Startup Week, representatives from Tech’s Office of Innovation and Marketing visited Traverse City to discuss some of the ongoing commercial projects “including 3D printing, renewable energy, plastics recycling and advanced batteries,” according to a note. .
The May 10 meeting was held at Michigan Tech’s Traverse City Research Workspace in the Traverse Connect Building at 202 Grandview Parkway.
20Fathoms brought in several members of the local new business community. The meeting brought together not only angel investors and risk-averse investors and advisors, but also those working in human and legal resources.
“We wanted to have a room full of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship that they could promote themselves,” Roberts said.
Michigan Tech brought six projects to the table in Traverse City. Roberts said one of them has already come out of the ground while another couple are being examined.
“We have fairly legitimate traction,” Roberts said.
The May 10 face-to-face meeting was held because the university was a big part of Northern Michigan Startup Week, which was held May 9-15.
The Huskies also participated in the University Ideas Showcase on May 12th. Bayle Golden and Roarke Sylvain finished in second place and were voted a favorite of the audience by Golden SafeRow, after putting in place a portable child safety device.
She also participated in Golden Startup Weekend and served as a tutor for the Tech Girls Club in Traverse City Central, which competed in the May 13 Northwest Michigan Student Pitch Competition.
While Golden’s SafeRow will not be part of 20Fathoms ’research program, it is another example of a partnership between Traverse City and Houghton.
“I’m absolutely excited to continue to grow my relationship with Michigan Tech,” Roberts said.
Michigan Tech recently announced that it will offer a hybrid Master of Business Administration, where classes will be held weekly through Zoom, which opened in October 2021 at the Workspace Research Center.
Michigan Tech and members of the Grand Traverse Area Michigan Tech Steering Committee, Bill Myers Promethient Inc. a “memorandum of understanding designed to explore opportunities for collaboration” signed by the CEO was signed in the region, according to a previous note.
Michigan Tech and Northwestern Michigan College also reached an agreement for engineering students to transfer two-year NMC credits to MTU.
The 2 + 2 program allowed students from a variety of engineering backgrounds to transfer 60 credits to Michigan Tech, according to the program, and to MTU as a junior.
An agreement reached earlier in 2021 transferred 73 credits from the NMC to the MTU to students of the College of Engineering Sciences.