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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

U-M reasserts commitment to research, innovation, economic impact statewide


As part of a comprehensive strategy to enhance innovation at the University of Michigan and accelerate economic impact across the State of Michigan, the Office of the Vice President for Research recently announced four new leadership appointments.

On September 21, the U-M Board of Regents approved the appointment of Dr. Rebecca Cunningham as Vice President for Research and Innovation. The addition of the word “Innovation” to Dr. Cunningham’s title reflects the university’s unwavering commitment to excellence in research and discovery, and then translating our transdisciplinary work in ways that positively impact society. Dr. Cunningham has led the Office of the Vice President for Research since April 2019, and she is responsible for fostering the excellence and integrity of research, scholarship and creative practice across all three U-M campuses.

The Regents on September 21 also approved the appointment of Dr. Kelly Sexton as Associate Vice President for Research – Innovation Partnerships and Economic Impact. The addition of “Economic Impact” to Dr. Sexton’s title is reflective of the university’s research commercialization efforts as both a contributor and partner statewide to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Dr. Sexton has led Innovation Partnerships (formerly the Office of Technology Transfer) since January 2018, where she provides visionary and strategic leadership of U-M’s innovation, corporate research and technology commercialization activities.

To operationalize the role of U-M’s research and innovation in supporting the growth and diversification of Michigan’s economy, Innovation Partnerships—the university’s central hub for research commercialization activity—has expanded and reorganized its ventures team. These changes provide the team with additional dedicated resources to reflect the growth and success of Innovation Partnerships’ startup development program and entrepreneurial ecosystem engagement activities.

As part of an expansion of the startup investment and economic impact arm of Innovation Partnerships, Michael Psarouthakis has been appointed to the newly created role of Executive Director of Impact Investments & Strategic Initiatives. In this new role, Psarouthakis will lead Innovation Partnerships’ investment programs, including the Accelerate Blue Fund, while catalyzing new programs to increase outside investments in U-M startups. Psarouthakis also will develop new connections across the regional and national venture community for the benefit of the State of Michigan’s startup ecosystem. Additionally, Psarouthakis will work to grow and strengthen regional economic development collaborations, including oversight of the statewide Technology Transfer Talent (T3N) network in its mission of supporting research commercialization efforts at public universities statewide. He will also oversee U-M’s role in the Mobility Accelerator Innovation Network, under the Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM) initiative.

As part of Innovation Partnerships’ expansion, Dave Repp has been appointed to the position of Director of Ventures and Managing Director of the Accelerate Blue Fund. In this role, Repp will manage the team responsible for identifying, developing and launching new startups based on U-M research discoveries. This includes supervising several translational research funds, as well as the Mentor-in-Residence program, which helps develop commercially viable startup companies based on university research. As Managing Director of the $15 million Accelerate Blue Fund, Repp will administer the fund’s investments in U-M startups, as well as manage relationships with more than 800 local and national venture firms and angel groups. 

U-M has launched 117 new startup companies over the past five years. Last year, U-M startups raised more than $786 million in capital through investments, mergers and acquisitions and IPOs, showcasing the university’s potential as a statewide economic driver.