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WMU gets new Michigan research initiative funding

July 18, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Two Western Michigan University initiatives were among the major efforts funded through a new Michigan research initiative launched July 16 and aimed at helping startup companies and creating new jobs.

Officials from many of Michigan's 15 public universities, along with those from state government and private foundations gathered at a press conference in Lansing to formally launch the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, aimed at helping to create 200 Michigan startup companies. The MIIE goal is to speed the commercialization of university research and to promote an entrepreneurial mind set that encourages risk-taking and innovation.

The kickoff event also included announcement of the initiative's first $1.3 million in entrepreneurship and commercialization grants. More than $200,000, or 15 percent, of that funding was awarded to two WMU efforts, as grants were awarded to 20 initiatives at 13 universities.

A $125,093 grant was awarded to WMU's Dr. Margaret Joyce, associate professor of paper engineering, chemical engineering and imaging, for development and optimization of a high-volume production process for printed electronic circuits. The work is focused on improving the conductivity of inks used in the production of RFID--radio frequency identification--tags by as much as 30 percent and eliminating a slow and costly curing process during production. Joyce is working with Mark Andy Inc. and Andritz Kusters, both internationally known equipment manufacturers for the paper industry.

In addition, a $77,500 award went to Dr. Kenneth O'Shaughnessy, professor of management, and Dr. Michael Sharer, director of intellectual property management and commercialization. The pair will use the grant to develop the Haworth College of Business Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Innovation at WMU. The center will serve as an umbrella organization to bring together community members, students, faculty, entrepreneurs and experienced business executives to provide a setting for students to develop and use the skills needed to develop and commercialize new technology. Funds also will be used to hire an Entrepreneur-in-Residence to catalyze the commercialization of WMU technologies.

"The MIIE program has been a great opportunity to work with other universities in the state on utilizing university expertise to enhance economic development and entrepreneurship education," says Dr. Leonard Ginsberg, interim vice president for research. "Both WMU projects are aimed at utilizing assets on the campus and in the community to address areas where there is real need and enormous potential."

Initial funding for the MIIE came from the C.S. Mott Foundation, which provided startup funding for the overall initiative as well as funding to cover the first round of awards. The MIIE plans to raise some $75 million over the next seven years, with the majority of the funding destined for a Technology Commercialization Fund designed to move discovery from the university lab into the private sector for development. The remaining funds will be targeted toward boosting entrepreneurship among students, faculty and Michigan industry.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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