MSU Bioeconomy Institute Snags State and Federal Funding For Proof of Concept Center

11/29/11Follow @XconomyDET

The Michigan State University Bioeconomy Institute in Holland, MI announced earlier this month that, in an effort to establish a cluster of biotech businesses, it is the recipient of more than $1 million in grants: $580,000 from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration and $500,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The grants will go toward operating the institute’s Proof of Concept Center, a pilot plant that allows small startups developing novel, green chemical technologies to scale their products up to an industrial level.

“Scale-ups can pose a variety of technical, financial, and regulatory challenges,” says Paul Hunt, senior associate vice president for Research & Graduate Studies at MSU. ”With the Proof of Concept Center, the infrastructure is now available to small companies who would not normally have access to a pilot plant. Ultimately, the goal is to advance Michigan’s economy by encouraging the production of bio-based chemicals for use in the auto, furniture, and fuel industries.”

The MSU Bioeconomy Institute will provide firms with access to more than 7,000 gallons of stainless steel, glass-lined, and Hastelloy chemical reactors, as well as centrifuges, dryers, filters, and related ancillary equipment. In addition to providing access to capital equipment for scale-up production, MSU will also provide research and chemical manufacturing expertise and regulatory compliance assistance.

West Michigan’s regional economic development organization, Lakeshore Advantage, will also manage a laboratory-based incubator for green entrepreneurial ventures, offering advice on business planning, market development, and business proposals. The Prima Civitas Foundation will coordinate statewide recruitment of client firms for the Proof of Concept Center, as well as facilitate firms’ contacts with venture funds and angel networks, beginning with North Coast Technology Investors. In addition, the New North Center for Design in Business will help companies with the essential aesthetics and design-process optimization aspects of green product development.

The MSU Bioeconomy Institute operates in a former Pfizer pharmaceutical R&D and pilot plant facility that was re-opened by the University in March 2009, following its donation by the pharmaceutical giant. The 138,000-square-foot facility includes extensive laboratories, a 105-seat auditorium, an atrium, and professional offices.

Twenty companies are expected to work out of the Proof of Concept Center over the course of the grant period.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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