MI Roundup: NextEnergy, Stratos, URC, Vectorform, Comcast

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

NextEnergy, the Detroit-based nonprofit accelerating advanced energy technologies, has awarded a total of $295,000 to three companies as part of the Michigan Accelerating Technology (MATch) Energy Grant program. Navitas Advanced Solutions Group, from Ann Arbor, received $20,000 to support research on new electrode coating and microwave drying processes for advanced battery cell assembly and production. REL, in Calumet, snagged $175,000 to develop a conformable natural-gas tank that can be integrated into the body of a vehicle. Rockford’s Temper was awarded $100,000 to develop a more energy-efficient molding process for thermoplastic composites.

The MATch Energy Grant program provides matching funds and commercialization support to eligible Michigan businesses and universities that are applying for federal grants in the area of advanced energy.

After launching in March, Ann Arbor’s Stratos has begun shipping its Bluetooth-connected card, which it describes as the world’s first membership-based mobile payment solution and works wherever credit and debit cards are accepted. This was an especially exciting idea when it was first publicized by the company a few years ago, before the marketplace became more crowded and Google and Apple released their mobile wallet platforms. Stratos said it exceeded its launch goals, with the majority of customers signing up for the two-year membership option, and scored 95 percent in customer satisfaction.

—Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC), a partnership between Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, has a new report out measuring economic impact and how the URC performed compared to other innovation clusters across the nation. The report found the URC contributes $16.8 billion to Michigan’s economy, up from $16.6 billion the year before. The URC ranked second in the nation in terms of research, innovation, and talent, just behind the Southern California cluster, which covers a lot of territory and includes UCLA and USC in Los Angeles and the University of California, San Diego. The report also clocked $2.1 billion in URC R&D expenditures in 2013, which marks an increase of 51 percent since 2007, when the organization first began comparing itself to other innovation clusters. The URC awarded 32,563 degrees last year, with the highest number of advanced degrees in the medicine and biological science fields of any other university innovation cluster. Read the full report here.

Vectorform, headquartered in Royal Oak, hosted a hackathon last weekend at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. Called Project 34, the hackers were tasked with using hardware and the latest technology to create something to enhance the experience of museum visitors, whether those visitors are in person or online. Awards were given to first-, second-, and third-place winners.

—Bloomfield’s Fresh Co Home and Lawrence Hunt in Royal Oak have won the Comcast Innovations for Entrepreneurs contest, and each will receive a $10,000 cash prize. The pair also moves on to the next round of the competition, where six out of 32 companies participating will be chosen as regional winners by public, online voting and receive an additional $20,000.

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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