2020 has definitely forced all of us to redefine work and networking. As the date approached for the 20th annual Celebrate Invention we faced a choice: cancel it for 2020, or figure out how to host an impactful virtual event to connect our U-M startups, innovators, and partners. We chose the latter, and the results exceeded our expectations. As an added bonus, every session was recorded and can be found on the U-M Tech Transfer YouTube Channel.
Our week-long virtual event kicked off with an incredible Dialogue with U-M President Mark S. Schlissel on the Evolving Role of the Research University. Kelly Sexton, Associate Vice President for Research, Technology Transfer and Innovation Partnerships, had an hour long fireside chat with the U-M President that can be viewed here.
Vice President for Research Rebecca Cunningham presented the 2020 Distinguished University Innovator Award to J.J. Prescott. After the award presentation, a panel discussion was held on Technology, Access to Justice, and Democratizing American Courts with Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack; Jason Tashea, founder and director of Justice Codes, a nonprofit focused on the impact of technology in criminal justice systems; and Bernadette Atuahene, law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology, and a research professor at the American Bar Foundation. This incredible panel session was moderated by Luke Shaefer, the inaugural director of U-M’s Poverty Solutions program.
Members of the OTT leadership team were included on a panel discussion titled The Age of Innovation: Research Universities and Commercialization. David Thompson, Director of Development, joined Kelly Sexton, Associate Vice President for Research – Technology and Innovation Partnerships, Mike Psarouthakis, Director, Venture Center and Managing Director, Accelerate Blue Fund, and MJ Cartwright, CEO Court Innovations to discuss how research innovation gets commercialized.
Ecosystem partners like the MEDC were involved in a mid-week session titled Is the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Program Right for You? During the session, all 5 statewide MTRAC program directors discussed their translational research funding programs – specific technology focus, oversight committee selection process, eligibility and how the State of Michigan’s academic researchers and clinicians can participate.
U-M Tech Transfer and Ann Arbor SPARK collaborated on a tech forecast with global thought leaders John Denniston, Chairman Shared-X, Upali Nanda, Taubman College, Bryan Stiekes, Technical Director Google Cloud and Venkatram Ramaswamy, Ross Business School, on trends driving industries during the 2030: What the Future Holds session.
In the session titled: The Basics of Creating an Early Stage Academic Startup Osage University Partners Manny Stockman and Anurag Agarwal presented a primer on startups that was targeted to researchers and new entrepreneurs. This session focused on helping faculty innovators understand the current startup company process from idea to fundable entity.
Startup Fundraising 101 was presented by Tech Transfer National Advisory Board member Serena Glover, an Angel Investor and Entrepreneur. This highly acclaimed session covered:
- When to raise, how much to raise, deal legal terms and overview of process
- Investors: targeting, preparation, and mindset
- How to build a pitch deck and story that is attractive to early stage investors
- Biggest mistakes, general advice and how to follow up with investors.
Serena pulled double duty for us and also conducted Angel Investing: How to Get Started. This interactive session provided a framework for thinking about angel investing, how to make your first deal, and how to engage as an ongoing investor. The discussion was targeted at those wanting to actively invest, but was useful for anyone who wished to better understand more about investing.
U-M Technologies and Startups: Playing an Active Role in the Fight Against COVID-19 was a timely session about technologies developed at U-M to fight the COVID-19 pandemic from innovators Yahsar Niknafs, LynxDx, Sherman Fan, Optofluidics, and Lola Eniola-Adefeso, Asalyxa.
An OTT internal office tradition, the ringing of the U-M startup bell was done virtually for the first time. U-M Startup BlueConduit, a company that uses machine learning to improve public health, celebrated their official launch by ringing a lead pipe since ringing the U-M startup bell in-person wasn’t an option.
Drew Bennett, Associate Director of Licensing, presented Everything You Need to Know About Open Source Software. Drew walked university researchers through the “ins and outs” of successfully launching and managing open source projects.
Finally, the session Inspiring Impact: Getting Your Best Ideas into the World caused on how U-M Tech Transfer helps inventors translate research into real-world impact. The session included a conversation containing lessons learned from actual U-M researchers new to the commercialization process.
Although we could not be together for all of these amazing talks the event was incredibly well received and broadly informative.