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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

U-M hits new record with 21 startups in FY2018


The number of startups launched at the University of Michigan nearly doubled in fiscal year 2018 to 21 as U-M inventors went to market with a broad array of discoveries from autonomous shuttles to a post-surgery warning system that alerts doctors to patient distress well ahead of traditional methods.

U-M researchers reported a 10-percent rise in new inventions with 484 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, up from last year’s 444.

Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships at U-M, said the Office of Technology Transfer focused on outreach to faculty and saw more interest from companies wanting to connect with U-M to license technology.

“We are seeing an explosion of interest in launching software startups,” Sexton said, noting that nine of the 21 startups are software companies and that the majority of this year’s startups are headquartered in southeast Michigan, where they’re creating jobs and helping to diversify the economy.

“Network security, for instance, is now one of the fastest-growing industry sectors in the Ann Arbor area, and it all started with the university’s investment in the early internet, which eventually gave rise to U-M startups like Arbor Networks, and, more recently, Censys,” she said. “At the same time, we’re also launching companies like the autonomous shuttle startup May Mobility that are going to help us maintain our region’s competitiveness in the automotive industry.”

U-M Innovation Partnerships also reported 169 U.S. patents issued in fiscal year 2018, down slightly from 172 in fiscal year 2017. It also signed a record 218 license and option agreements with companies seeking to commercialize the discoveries of university researchers in the past fiscal year—up from 173 in FY2017.

“In transferring university research to the marketplace, the University of Michigan plays an important role in improving lives and driving economic growth through the development of new products and services,” said S. Jack Hu, vice president for research, whose office oversees U-M Innovation Partnerships.

Out of the 218 licenses and options, U-M Innovation Partnerships issued 21 licenses to new startup companies, up from 12 last year. U-M startups are offered guidance and resources from the Innovation Partnerships Venture Center, which is a starting point for entrepreneurs and investors looking for startup opportunities based on U-M research.

The highly experienced Venture Center team has collectively raised $244 million of investment funding, generated $703 million in liquidity events and invested $451 million into startups as angel investors or as managers of venture capital firms throughout their careers, Sexton said.

The office also brought in revenues from licensing totaling $11.5 million, much of which are invested in university research and innovation.

Notable startups this year included:

Fifth Eye: A system that monitors the autonomic nervous system of hospital patients and predicts problems. Jen Baird, CEO of Fifth Eye and a U-M alum and serial entrepreneur, teamed up with three researchers from the Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care to create the startup with technology licensed from U-M.

May Mobility: The company licensed five autonomous driving-related technologies from U-M that will help build out a fleet of autonomous public transit vehicles planned for business districts, corporate and college campuses, medical facilities and other communities across the country. Edwin Olson, May Mobility’s founder and CEO, is a U-M associate professor in computer science and engineering. Olson’s co-founders are U-M alumni Alisyn Malek, chief operating officer, and Steve Vozar, chief technology officer. Together, they’ve worked on autonomous vehicle projects with Ford, General Motors and Toyota.

Censys: Censys is a platform that helps information security practitioners discover, monitor and analyze devices that are accessible from the internet. Based on technology developed in the lab of U-M computer science and engineering professor J. Alex Halderman, Censys continuously scans the internet, analyzing every publicly visible server and device. It uses the data that comes back to create a dynamic, searchable snapshot of the entire internet.