Business Leaders, URC In New Entrepreneurship Boost

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Business Leaders for Michigan, the statewide successor to Detroit Renaissance, today is to introduce an entrepreneurship-boosting initiative with the University Research Corridor, the consortium of the state’s three biggest universities.

The initiative is called Accelerate Michigan, and it’s an addition to the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, the largest business plan competition in the nation.

Keys to the initiative include a university-spinoff-focused $50 million venture capital fund to be raised by 2012; a $3 million early stage venture fund to be raised more quickly to assist promising university research ideas; and a detailed research matchmaking effort to match BLM companies’ research needs with research going on at the URC schools.

The effort is part of BLM’s stated goal of making Michigan a top 10 state for economic growth.

The partnership was announced in a media event with BLM director Doug Rothwell and URC executive director Jeff Mason. Rothwell said his longtime working relationship with Mason helped create the partnership.

“Jeff and I worked together in the ’90s at the MEDC and we pushed university-based economic development,” Rothwell said. “We may have been ahead of our time. But now you have three university presidents who really get it, and business leaders who want to diversify the state and realize they can’t do it all on their own and want the help of the universities.”

Rothwell and Mason said both the venture capital funds would be a mixture of BLM corporate funds, with attempts to raise matching funding from the foundation community and government sources.

Rothwell said BLM research shows that while Michigan has plenty of “raw innovation” in the university community, but the translation of that innovation into growing companies lags other university research clusters like California, Massachusetts and North Carolina.

The effort is divided into three “pillars”:

1. Championing entrepreneurship and innovation. Efforts here include the statewide entrepreneurial competitions, promotion of research matchmaking and developing a statewide entrepreneurship strategy.

2. Growing the capacity to scale ideas. Efforts here include more venture capital and a detailed angel investment strategy.

3. Catalyzing clusters of innovation. Efforts here include aligning Michigan clusters of innovation with federal research efforts, increasing advocacy for federal research funding in Michigan, and formation of a Michigan Science and Innovation Council to identify further opportunities of university-focused economic growth.

The effort has a Web site up as of today at www.acceleratemichigan.com.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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