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Robotic Fish - Doug Coombe
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"The Spartan Line" connects Chicago-based MSU alums to East Lansing

The Spartan Line, an initiative of the Prima Civitas Foundation, is a simple idea: Amtrak service from Chicago to East Lansing for  football games and other big events. But it could help keep former Spartans invested in the East Lansing community -- and possibly entice them to return one day: 

The premise of The Spartan Line is that it gives these Chicago-based MSU alumni a convenient and fun way to zip back to East Lansing for events. After all, the longer they stay connected to the Lansing area, the more likely it is that they consider their former home as a possible future home. PCF worked with several partners to make the program happen, including the university, the MSU Alumni Association, MSU Athletics, the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, LEAP and other organizations interested in keeping Spartans local.
 
The inaugural Spartan Line run included a morning tailgate and a private preview of the Broad Art Museum and attracted about 30 Spartan passengers. PCF has future Spartan Line excursions in the works.

Read the full story here.

Michigan Corporate Relations Network accepting proposals for small business research

The Michigan Corporate Relations Network, a collaboration is soliciting proposals for the third round of its Small Company Innovation Program (SCIP) awards. SCIP provides cost-sharing grants to small and medium-sized companies for research projects at MCRN universities.
 
MCRN is a partnership between six Michigan research universities: Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and Western Michigan University.
 
In promoting university-industry collaboration, SCIP aims to enhance innovation and growth for Michigan's economy by making research affordable for small businesses. The program also helps to stimulate talent retention in Michigan by developing relationships between small companies and university graduate student researchers.
 
Individual SCIP projects are funded at matches of $20,000 to $40,000. Participating companies must supply a 1:1 match of funds, for a total project budget of $40,000 to $80,000.
 
The deadline to submit a proposal is May 1. For more information on SCIP, visit www.michigancrn.org/scip. Full story here.

U-M joins international research effort to shape future of Great Lakes

It's as clear as a glass of water: the Great Lakes are central to the economy of our region. They contain one-fifth of the world's freshwater supply and will be the focal point of research, technology, and the environment in the near- and long-term future.

The University of Michigan is among the leaders of a multinational partnership charged with charting the course of the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Futures project is an inaugural effort of 18 universities and 29 master's and doctorate students to develop policy recommendations for the next 50 years, and to better guide the application of federal grants to restoration projects.

Reports AnnArbor.com: 

Part of the uniqueness of the project is the interaction and feedback the students get on their work from regional research bodies and representatives of governmental organizations, as occurred at [a recent] workshop U-M hosted in Ann Arbor.
 
In a room filled with researchers interested in the Great Lakes, some who had been studying the region for their entire lengthy careers, and others that were just beginning in the field, hours of collaborative conversations went by in making recommendations to the students' work. The interaction between the students, members of interest groups and representatives from policy bodies is extremely "uncommon," Scavia said.

Read the full story here.
 

WSU startup Advaita to participate in NIH Commercialization Assistance Program

A Wayne State biotech startup has received a prestigious award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Advaita Corp., founded in 2005 by Sorin Draghici, Ph.D., professor of computer science in Wayne State's College of Engineering, has been selected to participate in NIH's Commercialization Assistance Program (CAP), a specialized technical-assistance program that helps promising life-science companies accomplish their commercialization goals and transition their small business into the marketplace.

The 18-month program provides individual mentoring and consulting sessions, training workshops, and access to domain experts that enhance the commercialization profile and readiness of participating companies.

With the assistance of a $2.2 million NIH STTR Phase II award, Advaita developed a bioinformatics software solution called Pathway-Guide. Based on intellectual property developed at Wayne State University, the application provides the most advanced gene pathway analysis technology to date. The company is entering the commercialization phase of their development plan.

Read the full story here.

Brief interruptions cause errors, says MSU research team

Short interruptions – such as the few seconds it takes to silence that buzzing smartphone – have a surprisingly large effect on one's ability to accurately complete a task, according to new research led by Michigan State University.

The study, in which 300 people performed a sequence-based procedure on a computer, found that interruptions of about three seconds doubled the error rate.
 
Brief interruptions are ubiquitous in today's society, from text messages to a work colleague poking his head in the door and interrupting an important conversation. But the ensuing errors can be disastrous for professionals such as airplane mechanics and emergency room doctors, said Erik Altmann, lead researcher on the study.
 
"What this means is that our health and safety is, on some level, contingent on whether the people looking after it have been interrupted," said Altmann, MSU associate professor of psychology.

The study, funded by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research, is one of the first to examine brief interruptions of relatively difficult tasks. The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Read the full story here.

Michigan research universities boost automotive industry

In five years, Michigan's research universities have produced over 1400 auto-related research projects representing over $300 million in investment in the automotive sector. That translates to countless advances in technology, safety, fuel efficiency and performance, many of which are on display at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. 

Reports the Winnipeg Free Press:

During a tour of the North American International Auto Show, Wayne State University engineering professor Jerry Ku said the gap between academic and industry research has narrowed in recent years.
 
"We are very, very aligned. Same direction," said Ku, whose research deals in part with electric vehicle battery packs.
 
Read the full story here.

Novozymes and MBI Partner to Win $2.5M DOE Award

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this month that it has awarded Lansing-based MBI and global biotech company Novozymes up to $2.5 million to develop new enzyme-based technologies to convert corn stover into sugars for subsequent conversion into biofuels.

Novozymes, a world-leading enzyme company, brings its depth of expertise in enzyme screening and development to the partnership, while MBI brings its innovative AFEXTM biomass processing technology.
 
"There are two major challenges in converting agricultural biomass into biobased products," said Allen Julian, Chief Business Officer of MBI. "One is the challenge of handling, storing and hauling low-density biomass to the refinery, and the other is the challenge of breaking down the biomass cost-effectively into its constituent sugars."
 
AFEX technology can be practiced in depots close to the farm, allowing dense biomass pellets to be economically stored and shipped to a distant biorefinery. In addition, AFEX alters the biomass structure so that enzymes can more effectively break the biomass down into fermentable sugars.
 
The Novozymes/MBI collaboration is aimed at tailoring enzymes for AFEX-treated biomass, which will in turn enable the production of low-cost fermentable sugars. Such non-food biomass sugars can be converted into bio-based fuels, chemicals and other products.
 
MBI previously won a $4.3 million Department of Energy award to develop and scale up its AFEX technology. Under this project, MBI is currently completing the installation of a 1 ton-per-day pilot-scale AFEX reactor at its Lansing, Michigan facility.

Read the full story here.

Top prizes go to water treatment, life sciences firms at Accelerate Michigan

"There is no time like now and no place like Michigan for innovation," says Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, which has sponsored the Accelerate Michigan Innovative Competition in its first three years.

Winners of the Accelerate Michigan business plan competition were announced Nov. 15 at an event at Detroit's Orchestra Hall.
 
Plymouth-based Algal Scientific took home the grand prize of $500,000 in seed capital for its wastewater treatment system technology that uses algae to remove nutrients from contaminated water, leaving the raw materials for biofuel production. Livonia-based nanoMAG took home the $100,000 runner-up prize for its work developing a new type of Magnesium compound that can be used for biocompatible stents and implants.
 
Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert was also honored with the Spirit of Michigan Award. Josh Linkner, CEO of Detroit Venture Partners, accepted the award on Gilbert's behalf and spoke highly of downtown Detroit's new tech hub that is bubbling out of the M@dison Building.
 
"We will be studying this stretch of five years for years to come," Linkner says "It's because of the work and dedication of Dan Gilbert."

Accelerate Michigan got its start in Ann Arbor as a way to showcase the cream of the crop of Michigan's entrepreneurial ecosystem and connect them with both local and out-of-state resources and investors. This year it moved to downtown Detroit to show off the Motor City's emerging tech hub and vibrant downtown. That shined through at a kick-off event at the Guardian Building, where attendees walked past office buildings lit up with young people working for the likes of Quicken Loans, GalaxE.Solutions, Compuware and Strategic Staffing Solutions.
 
Accelerate Michigan offers $1 million in prizes to start-ups based in or looking to move to Michigan. This year the top three finishers will take home $500,000, $100,000 and $50,000.

Read more about Accelerate Michigan at their homepage.

This news item adapted from original reporting in Model D and Metromode.
 


U-M students launch TurtleCell to solve earbud tangle

Paul Schrems has two ambitions these days. One is to start his own company and the second is to not have to keep untangling the earbuds for his smartphone. He's doing both with TurtleCell, a consumer-electronics start-up he is launching with Nick Turnbull.
 
Schrems and Turnbull are engineering students at the University of Michigan. They both love their smart phones and the protective cases they are in but hate reaching into the pockets to pull out a tangled mess of earbuds. So the enterprising pair invented TurtleCell, a smartphone case that has retractable earbuds built in.
 
"I thought: Why couldn't I combine the two and and save myself the time of untangling my earbuds for half of my walk to class?" Schrems says.
 
TurtleCell has since developed a prototype and is working with mentors from the TechArb student incubator to refine the design and raise funding. The 4-month-old company plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in January to raise funds to build the first run of products to be sold later this year.
 
Source: Paul Schrems, co-founder of TurtleCell
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on Nov. 14, 2012.
 

Michigan to get two advanced battery research hubs

Michigan will get two "advanced battery hubs" as part of a $120 million U.S. Dept. of Energy project to develop advanced low-cost batteries that could make electric cars more affordable. The satellite research centers will be located in Ann Arbor, on the campus of the University of Michigan, and in Holland. 

The hubs will bring university and private-sector researchers together; partners in Michigan include the University of Michigan, Dow Chemical Co., and Michigan Tech. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has committed $5 million to the program. 

Read the full story here.

MSU gets $25M grant for global food production research

Michigan State University will be home to one of seven development laboratories charged with finding ways to boost crop production and reduce poverty in developing areas around the world.The Global Center for Food Systems Innovation, part of MSU’s International Studies and Programs, will get $25 million over five years from the U.S. Agency for International Development to try to solve problems affecting global food production.
 
Reports the Battle Creek Enquirer: 

[USAID Administrator Rajiv] Shah said MSU was chosen partly because of its recent successes with climate change and food production in East Africa and other parts of the world.
 
"We hope to build on that," Shah said. "If we don't have newer crops that can improve productivity, we know the very poorest people will bear the biggest brunt of the effects of climate change."
Read the full story here


WSU researcher joins international effort to understand the ocean

From the middle of the country, a Wayne State University researcher is working to advance understanding of the movement of chemical compounds through the world's oceans.
 
Mark Baskaran, Ph.D., professor of geology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has received a three-year, $190,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a project that will follow the pathways and cycling of two trace elements in the Pacific Ocean from Peru to Tahiti.
 
The project will examine levels of polonium (Po) and lead (Pb) isotopes in water samples from Peru to Tahiti to investigate how much carbon is exported from the upper 100 meters of ocean water to deeper waters, and how hydrothermal waters released from the bottom of the ocean affect the removal of polonium and lead. 
 
During a two-month cruise beginning in October 2013, Baskaran and WSU student John Niedermiller will collect thousands of liters of water samples from up to 5,000-meter depths for polonium and lead analysis in various types of waters, including those with high biological activity, those with low oxygen, and hydrothermal plumes (areas of warmer water).

Read the full story here

Universities playing a key role in Great Lakes entrepreneurial ecosystem

In a blog post for the Huffington Post about the Midwest emerging as an entrepreneurial "hot spot," John Dearborn, President of JumpStart, Inc., cites the growing influence of research universities in creating a path for entrepeneurs in the Great Lakes region.

Dearborn writes:

In 2011, the Kauffman Foundation reported that 54 percent of Millennials (those ages 18-34) "were either planning to start a business or had already done so." They're finding support from more and more colleges, who are increasingly recognizing entrepreneurship as a viable career path: A separate Kauffman study counted 2,335 full-time undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs. At the same time, schools are realizing they have to work to commercialize their technologies. Universities such as Ohio State, Wayne State University, University of Michigan and University of Minnesota have specialized resources dedicated to facilitating technology commercialization, while the Ohio Board of Regents' 2011 report addressed how the state can improve its commercialization efforts.
Read the full story here.

Grants from U-M, MSU to help Great Lakes region prepare for climate change

Scientists at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan have awarded six grants to organizations across the region for projects that will help decision-makers adapt to climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin.
 
The grants were awarded by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center, a federally funded collaboration between U-M and MSU.
 
"Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on the Great Lakes region, and it's important for us to understand and prepare for them," said GLISA program manager David Bidwell, a research fellow at U-M's Graham Sustainability Institute. "These projects are laboratories for learning best practices for making decisions informed by climate science."
 
In addition to the grant awards, GLISA researchers recently posted a new set of white papers focused on potential impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation options related to climate change and variability in the Midwest.
 
The reports are available at http://glisa.msu.edu/great_lakes_climate/nca.php.
 
The GLISA grants total about $231,000. Researchers at U-M and MSU will support the projects by providing information about historical climate in the region, as well as projected climate changes and their potential impacts. Social scientists will track the projects to identify best practices for making climate information more usable for decision-makers.

Read the full story and a complete list of grantees here.

U-M begins bold new research funding venture MCubed

A revolutionary research funding experiment begins today at U-M, as faculty members from every school and college start to coalesce into teams of three to embark on visionary projects.
 
The MCubed program, announced in May, will divvy up $15 million among 250 brand new, interdisciplinary pilot studies. A grassroots endeavor spearheaded by a trio of engineering professors, it empowers researchers themselves -- as opposed to funding agencies -- to decide which ideas are worth exploring.
 
All 19 schools and colleges at the university, as well as three other interdisciplinary units, have agreed to participate.

Read the full story here.
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