Technology Transfer | News

U Minnesota To Seed Tech and Other Innovations

The University of Minnesota, which has a tagline, "Driven to Discover," is launching a seed investment program to help innovations and technologies make it out of the campus and into the market. The new Discovery Capital Investment Program will provide up to $350,000 in early-stage funding to startup companies coming out of the university as long as they have a viable business plan and qualified management and can match or exceed the investment with an outside investment (without already having received equity capital). As a last step, a board of advisors will approve deals.

Areas of investment focus are expected to be medical devices, pharmaceuticals, software and related services, engineering and the physical sciences, energy and the environment, and food and agriculture. Criteria for picking recipients of the funding include the potential for returns on the investment, ties to federally funded research and faculty's involvement with the early-stage companies.

The initiative was launched by the university's Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC). Originally, the thinking was to form a university venture capital fund. That was nixed for a couple of reasons: The economic downturn made funding tougher to find and managing a VC effort has sizeable costs associated with it.

Administrators said they believe the new program will allow the school to keep expenses down, raise matching equity more easily from outside sources and expedite the movement of university discoveries into their start-up phases.

"Our goal at the OTC is to find every avenue possible to accelerate the transfer of technology to market, and this type of investment program will better position our innovative faculty and researchers to translate their ideas into real-life solutions sooner," said Jay Schrankler, executive director for the Office for Technology Commercialization. "We have world-class researchers...and our office is excited that we are expanding the ways industry can take advantage of this knowledge and better interact with this new technology and our researchers. This year the university launched a record number of new startups — 15 — and we expect that this program will help contribute to this growth and innovation."

Schrankler's office also recently expanded the university's IP program, which manages licensing terms of university technologies with industry. The same operation also runs Minnesota Innovation Corps, a program that helps students and researchers find their way through the commercialization process.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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