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U-M licenses a record number of inventions

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—In Michigan and across the globe last year, more University of Michigan technologies were licensed to companies than ever before. U-M Tech Transfer recorded 101 licenses and options in fiscal year 2011, which ended June 30.

"We exceeded the century mark for the first time," said Ken Nisbet, executive director of Tech Transfer. "This number of agreements is an important metric of success and places us again within the top 10 universities in tech transfer performance."

Researchers reported 322 inventions and filed for 122 patents. And in these challenging economic times, the university helped launch 11 companies with technologies developed in campus labs. Eight of these companies have opened operations in Michigan.

Fusion Coolant Systems is based on work led by Steve Skerlos, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In its Ypsilanti headquarters, the company is developing cleaner coolants and lubricants for factories. The new fluid is an environmentally-friendly coolant that also protects the health of workers. It is made from a mixture of recycled waste carbon dioxide and renewable lubricants such as vegetable oil.

Life Magnetics grew out of work by Brandon McNaughton, who, as a Ph.D. student in applied physics, helped to invent a biological sensor so sensitive that it could detect the presence of a single bacterial cell. From its space in the U-M Tech Transfer Venture Accelerator at the North Campus Research Complex, the firm is developing a quick and inexpensive test for dangerous bacteria in food.

And Ambiq Micro, which expects to launch its first product early next year, is developing ultra-low power microcontrollers based on research led by former electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student Scott Hanson and professors David Blaauw and Dennis Sylvester. Described as the world's smallest computers, their technology could be used in implantable medical devices, environmental monitors and even "asset tracking devices" that could be attached to important household or business items to always know their locations.

U-M Tech Transfer was an immense help as Hanson got this venture off the ground, he said. Their Venture Center mentoring, funding and other business services were invaluable.

"They helped me translate this from a research concept to a commercial one," Hanson said.

Those are just a few of the brand new start-ups that together bring the university's total over the past decade to 92. Many of them have had continued success, with follow-on venture funding and lucrative acquisitions that have led to continued job growth.

"This growth in our technology transfer activities strengthens our efforts to ensure that society realizes the benefits of our research enterprise," said Stephen Forrest, U-M's vice president for research. "Licensing and venture creation not only help to bring innovative technologies arising from our research to the marketplace, but also serve as a spur to economic growth and transformation."

In January, U-M Tech Transfer opened its Venture Accelerator at the North Campus Research Complex to provide lab and office space and other resources for U-M start-up companies. So far, ten companies have located there and the space is filling up faster than Tech Transfer officials expected.

Last year, the university recorded $16 million in tech transfer revenues, which include royalties and equity returns. These revenues are reinvested in research and education.

U-M research spending in FY 2011 grew 8.5 percent over the previous year to $1.24 billion, continuing the long-term trend of steady growth in the university's research enterprise.

Recent U-M inventions, startups and their creators will be highlighted at the annual Celebrate Invention event Oct.19 from 3-6 p.m. at the Michigan League ballroom. Admission is free, but registration is required www.techtransfer.umich.edu.

 

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