How MTRAC Commercializes Tech Products

By Denise Graves on July 14th, 2016 / Comments

If a university researcher has an idea for a product or technology in advanced materials with commercial potential, they often may not know how to get it to market. At Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech), the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) program is designed to help researchers bring products or ideas to real-world use.

MTRAC, developed and managed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), is a program created to help advance discoveries and research from the university level to the commercial market.  MEDC’s Entrepreneur and Innovation initiative establishes Michigan as the place to create and grow a business by providing high-tech start-up companies with access to a variety of critical resources, such as funding and expert counsel, from ideation to maturation.

Over the past three years, Michigan Tech’s MTRAC program has awarded more than $400,000 toward advanced materials products and services ideas from university researchers. Recently, the program completed is third-year, reviewing 10 proposals and awarding $120,000 in funds to support five projects.

From engineered skin tissue used to heal wounds to noise reduction film featured in military vehicles, the program provides support and guides researchers to help their projects accelerate to commercial products. Other projects currently underway at Michigan Tech include biodegradable stents, artificial enzymes used in medical diagnostics and an energy efficiency process for vermiculite extraction.  Each project is either in the prototyping phase or at the marketing stage.

In addition to receiving support through the MTRAC program, many of the projects receive funding, guidance and other resources allotted through Michigan Tech. Funding is only one piece of the entrepreneurial hurdle to get a product or idea to market.

The concept of university translational research was modeled after a similar nationwide program developed by Wallace Coulter. However, while Coulter focused on biomedical, each of the Michigan programs focus on their own specialties. In addition to Michigan Tech’s program for advanced materials, there are four other programs across three universities in Michigan with their own distinct focus. These include Michigan State University with agriculture biological sciences, University of Michigan with life sciences and advanced transportation and Wayne State University with biomedical.

Recently, the MTRAC program was approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund to expand statewide. What does this mean for Michigan? Once MTRAC is fully established across the state, a researcher from any institute of higher eduation, hospital system or nonprofit research institute can connect with an “innovation hub” to take their own product or idea from research to the marketplace.

Innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit is rampant throughout Michigan. Nowhere is that more apparent than on university campuses across the state, especially at Michigan Tech.

About the Author

Denise Graves

Denise Graves

Denise is the University Relations Director for the Entrepreneurship & Innovation team at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). In this role, she interacts with Michigan’s public universities, managing programs that support statewide collaboration and the commercialization of early stage technology.