How Michigan State University Aids Entrepreneurs

By Jane Whitttington on August 17th, 2016 / Comments

Aspiring entrepreneurs have a difficult path to forge. But in Mid-Michigan, they have organizations and agencies that help make the journey easier and allow new business hopefuls to achieve their dreams of success.

Michigan State University and the MSU Foundation play leading roles in Mid-Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, facilitating access for both startups and businesses already past the initial stage.

According to Aaryn Richard, Communications Manager for the MSU Foundation, “The Foundation is now in its 43rd year.  It is tasked with supporting and facilitating MSU’s vision and goals. Our charter is to help MSU build its strategic mission. As it says on the Foundation’s website, ‘we serve as a flexible and ongoing resource, responsive to the University’s strategic needs. At its core is an extensive program supporting research, teaching and commercialization of technologies for the public benefit.’”

It focuses on the following:

  • Granting funds to advance research and MSU’s infrastructure;
  • Underwriting MSU’s work in technology commercialization;
  • Encouraging the creation of startups originating from MSU faculty research through Spartan Innovations;
  • Providing facilities at the University Corporate Research Park for technology-based business, University initiatives, and University/industry partnerships.

Jeffrey Smith, Director of the University Corporate Research Park, says, “The seed money that went into the formation of the Foundation came from the licensing royalties from the sale of a cancer drug called Cislatin, developed at MSU. Earnings from the investment of these funds drive the support that the MSU Foundation provides to MSU.”

He continues, “The Corporate Research Park, established in 1989, is a business park with components within it that tie into the Foundation, Spartan Innovations and other parts of MSU’s efforts.

Shortly after we developed the CRP, the Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MBI) was built in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Originally intended as bio-tech incubator, it has evolved into a facility with a two-fold mission–both to develop technologies to benefit the Foundation and also to contribute to the greater good. MBI provides access to a comprehensive lab system for faculty research.”

The University has established an Undergraduate Entrepreneurship & Innovation department which features a new undergraduate minor as well as specializing experiences. In July of 2016, Bob Burgess, an MSU alum and successful businessman, made a $4.5 million gift to the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, following a previous gift of $2 million in 2005.

The Hive, situated in the center of campus, is a nearly 4,000 square foot “idea laboratory” which offers curriculum designed to support emerging undergraduate entrepreneurs. This lab is equipped with the latest technologies as well as a collaborative workspace to encourage team-building and the development of new ideas.

The Hatch is a co-working space off campus designed solely for college entrepreneurs to develop their business ideas. Supported by a partnership among MSU, MSU Federal Credit Union and Lansing Area Economic Partnership (LEAP), the newly-expanded space was accessed by more than 180 student startup teams in the last academic year.

The MSU Innovation Center combines innovation, technology transfer, startup support, and a portfolio of dedicated business and community partnerships to bring cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace. Composed of Business-CONNECT, MSU Technologies, and Spartan Innovations, the MSU Innovation Center stewards ideas from concept to commercialization, launching more than 150 discoveries into patented products and startup businesses annually.

MSU Business Connect works with companies to align their goals by taking advantage of MSU resources, expertise and academic prowess. Entrepreneurs can form research partnerships with MSU faculty, use both tangible and intangible resources, and find the support they need for their businesses as they grow and evolve.

MSU Technologies in MSU’s technology transfer and commercialization office. They guide the commercial development and public use of technologies developed by MSU faculty and staff and technologies from the lab to the marketplace.

The MSU Foundation also provides funding for Spartan Innovations which offers educational and financial support to turn MSU technologies into successful startup businesses. They also work with students as they develop their ideas into reality. They offer mentoring, referrals, financial support and access to space and equipment.

The Technology Innovation Center (TIC), a business accelerator for technology startups and existing business, offers 6,500 square feet of co-working space and is available to MSU student, faculty, and community startups. Available to fledgling entrepreneurs for up to three years, staff is available to guide business development and provide helpful referrals. At the TIC facility, there are 18 offices and two conference rooms. Low-cost phone and internet services along with all office amenities are available. Onsite training is hosted through the Lansing Economic Area Partnership and Michigan Small Business and Development Center.

These programs and organizations work together to create an ecosystem that helps move ideas from concept to market. This ecosystem relies on strong relationships across the university as well as with community partners and economic development agencies, venture and angel funders, regional accelerators and incubators, and local leaders to create a network of support and success.

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.