U-M to invest $50M on ideas

Posted on October 3, 2011

The University of Michigan will invest $50 million to develop innovative ideas about global challenges and opportunities as well as up to $25 million as it directly puts money into its own start-up businesses for the first time, the school’s president announced Wednesday.

The 5-year, $50-million Third Century Initiative will aim to develop innovative, multidisciplinary teaching and scholarship approaches to such topics as climate change, poverty and malnutrition, energy storage, affordable health care and social justice challenges.

“As we approach our third century, the University of Michigan is modeling itself for the immense challenges facing the nation and the world,” President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement. “As we have for decades, we will be aggressive in developing new approaches to teaching and research and fresh ideas that will improve people’s lives.”

The effort, announced during her annual fall address at the Ann Arbor school, will rely on existing money. It will include teaching, research and service.

“We see the Third Century Initiative as expanding action-based, immersive learning that will give students the skills and experiences they need to be effective leaders — leaders with the confidence to innovate, be entrepreneurial and reinvent themselves,” Coleman said.

The school was founded in Detroit in 1817 and later moved to Ann Arbor.

Coleman also announced Wednesday that the school will start directly investing in its own start-up businesses. She says the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups initiative could lead to $25 million in investments over the next 10 years.

Money for that effort will come from the school diversifying its assets, and will not be a new expense for the Ann Arbor school, she said.

“Michigan has long been at the forefront of the social sciences, engineering, medicine and more. Entrepreneurship must now be among our accomplishments,” Coleman said. “To continue being leaders, we must galvanize innovation across our campuses.”

Eligible start-ups are primarily those that have licensed technologies that originated in faculty labs, the school said. Once a start-up has secured an initial round of funding from a qualifying independent venture capital firm, it will be eligible for up to $500,000 of university financing.