Michigan’s Innovation Hub invests in new advanced transportation technologies


The University of Michigan’s (U-M) statewide Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation has awarded a total of US$700,000 in startup funding to 10 new technologies addressing transportation issues and opportunities.

The U-M’s (U-M) Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) statewide Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation has awarded the new funding to 10 technologies with commercial potential that are aimed at addressing transportation issues and opportunities. The MTRAC program, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative, is designed to support applicants with high-tech projects in the advanced transportation space from institutions of higher education, non-profit research centers and hospital systems across the state to help them get out of the lab and into the market.

A 15-member oversight committee comprising venture capital professionals, industry experts from leading transportation firms and experienced entrepreneurs reviewed 26 proposals from six universities. Projects receiving up to US$100,000 in funding include:

• Advanced Wireless Technology (U-M) – An advanced wireless system that provides long coverage range and high data rate connectivity to enable autonomous vehicle data flow and infotainment data flow;

• All-Weather Lidars System for Autonomous Vehicles (U-M) – Lidar system that provides improved object recognition, particularly in inclement weather, and packages into various vehicle designs;

• Coaxial Thermophone for Active Noise Control in Vehicles (MTU) – Carbon nanotube thin-film thermophone-wrapped coaxially around an exhaust pipe to actively control noise at low system size and weight;

• Durable, Elastomeric, Antimicrobial Coatings with Instant and Persistent Efficacy (U-M) – Antimicrobial coatings for high-touch vehicle interior surfaces, such as dashboards, handholds, cup holders, touchscreens, tray tables, seats and steering wheels;

• High-Resolution Radar Imaging for Autonomous Vehicles (MSU) – Millimeter-wave distributed radar imager for high-resolution imaging, which operates in all weather conditions and costs less than existing lidar systems;

• Self-Powered IoT for Smart Manufacturing and Transportation (U-M) – Vibration energy harvester with high power density, wide operation bandwidth, multi-axis operation capability, and low cost for powering Internet of Things (IoT) nodes.

A further four projects in the vehicle manufacturing and testing arena each received up to US$35,000 in Kickstarter funding.

U-M has been administering the MTRAC Advanced Transportation program since 2012. Over the course of six years the program has received 91 project proposals, funding 34 of them and generating over US$47m in follow-on funding. U-M is one of four universities with a MTRAC program, joining Michigan State University (MSU), Michigan Technical University (MTU), and Wayne State University (WSU).

Supported by the Michigan Strategic Fund and managed by the MEDC initiative, other MTRAC programs have funded 169 projects, helped develop 32 startups, created 101 jobs, secured over US$132m in follow-on funding, and licensed technology to 22 companies to-date.

“Michigan firms continue to lead in applying technology to create the future of transportation and mobility, and we are excited to add the cutting-edge research from our state’s universities to this effort,” said Eric Petersen, U-M MTRAC Advanced Transportation Program Director.

“These researcher teams are exceptionally talented and hardworking, and their technologies will enable safer, lower cost, less polluting forms of transportation.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).