Roundup: NextEnergy, Start Garden, LLamasoft, Atterocor, U-M, More

Here’s a look at news from around Michigan’s innovation hubs:

NextEnergy, the Detroit-based nonprofit driving the development of Michigan’s clean energy sectors, has officially launched NextChallenge, a business competition meant to inspire the development of innovative energy solutions. The challenge will address the unique lighting technology needs of Ford Motor Company and RecoveryPark, a major urban farming operation in Detroit. Ford is seeking innovative interior and exterior vehicle automotive lighting concepts that will add value and differentiation to its portfolio of products, while RecoveryPark is looking for solutions that optimize agricultural lighting systems for greenhouses and hydroponic operations.

Participants are asked to submit an online Request for Solutions proposal to one, or both, lighting challenges by 11:59 p.m. EST on March 6, 2015. Judges will review the submissions based on the following objectives: innovation, partnerships, qualifications, competitive advantage, scalability, and Michigan-based intellectual property and investment. Selected semi-finalists will be expected to present their proposals to the sponsor(s) in early spring and awards will be announced in May 2015. Michigan-based winners are eligible for up to $80,000 cash and/or in-kind support and non-Michigan-based winners are eligible for up to $40,000 in-kind support.

Start Garden, the Grand Rapids-based venture capital fund that invests in over a hundred ideas a year in small increments, has awarded $5,000 each to two startups. Freelance Workplace is an online marketplace that allows employers to find, hire, manage, and pay freelance consultants across a wide range of technical and business specialties. Gridbygrid is a website that enables real estate buyers to collaborate on their purchases. Both companies plan to use the funding to further develop their startup ideas.

—The Economic Development Council of Livingston County held its annual meeting earlier this month, where it recognized the year’s most significant development projects. Project of the year was awarded to Eberspaecher, a Tier 1 supplier that is adding more than 100 jobs to its facility in Brighton, which will double in size. Pinckney Robotics, a nationally recognized high school robotics program, was honored with the talent innovation award. In July, the program’s mechatronics team became repeat national champions at the SkillsUSA robotics competition.

—A new co-working space called Common Division has opened in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. Located at 4160 Cass Ave., Common Division offers shared workspace, wifi, complimentary snacks, storage lockers, and access to printers and fax machines.  The prices for co-working memberships range from $15 per day to $160 per month and can be purchased at the Common Division website.

—The University of Michigan has signed an agreement with PDL BioPharma to sell a portion of its royalty interest in Cerdelga capsules, a first-line oral treatment for adults with Gaucher disease type 1. The university granted a license to Genzyme to develop the drug, which received FDA approval in August. Under the terms of the royalty agreement, PDL will pay U-M $65.6 million and receive 75 percent of all royalty payments due under U-M’s licensing agreement with Genzyme until expiration of the licensed patents, excluding any patent term extension. The drug was developed by James Shayman, also of U-M, prior to and after licensing the compound to Genzyme in 2000.

LLamasoft, the Ann Arbor-based supply-chain software company, has been ranked 139 on Deloitte’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing North American tech companies. LLamasoft’s revenues grew by 830 percent during the past year. LLamasoft’s President and CEO, Don Hicks, credits “a culture of service, market opportunity, and solution maturity” for the company’s continuing growth, according to a statement. “LLamasoft recognized the interplay between technology, people, and ecosystem and achieved a level of maturity that set us apart from the competition,” Hicks says. LLamasoft was ranked 175 by Deloitte in 2013, and ranked 216 in 2012.

Online Tech, headquartered in Ann Arbor, started as Michigan’s first Internet service provider twenty years ago and is now the leading data center operator in the state. On Dec. 2, the company invites the public to the grand opening of its new data center from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 6435 N. Hix Road in Westland. Click here to register to attend the free event.

—The Ann Arbor, MI-based biotech startup Atterocor has appointed Pharis Mohideen as its chief medical officer. He will lead all clinical strategies and activities, including overseeing the development of ATR-101, the company’s investigational therapy for the treatment of adrenocortical cancer. Previously, Mohideen was global clinical program head at Novartis Oncology.

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

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