Three new companies have moved into the University of Michigan Venture Accelerator, which provides space, services and mentoring for emerging UM start-ups.
The accelerator is now 60 percent full after just seven months in operation. Negotiations with several other prospective tenants are under way, and accelerator officials now project that the facility at UM’s North Campus Research Complex could be full by the end of the year.
“We thought it would take a year and a half, maybe two years, to fill the accelerator,” said Jim O’Connell, director of the Venture Center at UM Tech Transfer. “There’s no question that we’ve had a lot more interest than we would have projected, and I think it’s because we’re addressing an unmet need.”
The Venture Accelerator provides laboratory and office space, as well as business services, to startup companies emerging from the pipeline of new ventures at UM Tech Transfer. It occupies about 16,000 square feet at UM’s sprawling 174-acre, 30-building North Campus Research Complex, the former Pfizer pharmaceutical property purchased by the university in 2009.
“Our success is due to the fabulous NCRC facilities, our suite of business services and talent, and the power of the University of Michigan brand,” O’Connell said.
The three companies that moved in this summer are:
* Wolverine Energy Solutions and Technology (WEST), which specializes in innovative, efficient, cost-effective and green energy storage materials. WEST has developed and patented a capacitor material that has superior energy-storage performance and is lightweight, low cost, fast-responding and has environmentally friendly properties.
* Reveal Design Automation, which develops software tools for full-chip, full-coverage verification of digital chip designs. The company’s verification engine relies on proprietary automated abstraction technology and provides orders of magnitude improvements in verification runtime versus competing software.
* Edington Associates, which works with organizations to develop healthy and high-performing workplaces and people. The Edington System helps employers become Champion Companies through solutions that build supportive leadership and healthy work environments, design and leverage effective health management programs, and collect and use timely and actionable information.
UM is among the top 10 U.S. universities in the number of startup companies it spins off, more than 90 since 2001.
About two and a half years ago, Tech Transfer officials realized they could achieve even greater progress by offering UM startups the laboratory and office space they require, along with the professional business services that every new company needs.
The Venture Accelerator resembles a business incubator but is distinguished by the diverse array of services it offers to tenants — a suite of resources typically not available at business incubators. Accelerator tenants have access to Tech Transfer’s Venture Center to help them refine business models, attract investors, acquire gap funding and connect to talent that enhances the company’s quality and sustainability. Tenants can also seek guidance from seasoned entrepreneurs in Tech Transfer’s Mentors in Residence program.
The Venture Accelerator has enough space to accommodate about 15 startup companies. It will house a mix of small life sciences, clean-tech, software and other technology ventures based on discoveries from UM research.
Currently, the size of the companies ranges from three to 14 employees. A full-time manager, Megan Reichert-Kral, has been hired, and three additional Mentors in Residence at Tech Transfer are planned.
Selected UM startups sign one-year leases (for a maximum of up to three years) and pay fees comparable to the costs of other local business incubators, O’Connell said.
Additional funding for the project is provided by Tech Transfer, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the UM Health System.