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Roundup: Arboretum Ventures, NEI, U-M, Pegasystems, MTRAC & More

Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor — 

What’s cooking in Michigan’s innovation ecosystem? A lot, this time of year. Here’s a look at news from around the state:

Arboretum Ventures, the Ann Arbor-based healthcare venture capital firm, has closed its fourth fund, with commitments totaling $220 million. This nearly doubles the firm’s capital under management to $450 million. According to the firm, Arboretum IV is the largest venture capital fund ever raised in Michigan and one of the largest healthcare-focused venture capital funds in the Midwest. Arboretum already has a few big exits under its belt, including Esperion Therapeutics and Inogen.

The New Economy Initiative (NEI), a $140 million philanthropic effort to support Detroit entrepreneurs as they grow, announced this week that it has awarded almost $600,000 in grants to neighborhood organizations that are helping small businesses. The purpose of the grants it to strengthen the network of support services for entrepreneurs and small businesses in underserved neighborhoods throughout the city. The grantees are Osborn Neighborhood Alliance ($84,405), Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. ($110,000), Central Detroit Christian Development Corp. ($91,300), Accounting Aid Society ($100,400), Small Business Development Center ($90,244), and Foodlab ($117,000).

Though the NEI serves entrepreneurs across Detroit, the first round of grants for this initiative is mostly concentrated in three Detroit neighborhoods: Osborn, Grandmont Rosedale, and the North End. NEI expects to issue up to $3.5 million total in grants to support the Neighborhood Business Initiative over the next three years.

—Last week, the University of Michigan held a “wallbreaking” ceremony to celebrate the start of renovations to its nuclear engineering laboratory, after faculty and students spent a decade dismantling the Ford Nuclear Reactor and clearing the building of radiation. The $12 million revamp will result in 13,200 square feet of laboratories, offices, and conference rooms, and includes space to build and test gamma ray cameras, develop radiation detection methods, study the movement of water and steam in cooling nuclear reactors, and investigate amorphous materials. Professor Zhong He—we profiled his nuclear-tech startup in 2014—described the redesigned space as “the lab of my dreams” in a press release.

—Michigan State University’s Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) program is seeking proposal submissions from researchers seeking to commercialize agricultural science and technology projects. The relevant ag-bio technology must have an invention disclosure filed with MSU Technologies and an identified commercial application to be eligible; projects should generally fit under the USDA definition of food, fuel, fiber, or anything related to these areas. Initial grants offer as much as $25,000 for Tier II and $100,000 for Tier I, with competitive renewals possible upon meeting project milestones. The deadline to apply is Nov. 16.

NextEnergy and Navitas Systems are working with the city of Detroit to retrofit 31 municipal ambulances with auxiliary power units meant to save money and improve air quality. The upgrades are funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation, and equipping the fleet with this technology will make it one of greenest ambulance fleets in the nation, NextEnergy said. Navitas’ PowerForce battery system allows ambulance operators to run auxiliary equipment with the main engine off, cutting idling time, saving fuel, and reducing pollution. Installation of the auxiliary power units will be completed by spring 2016.

—The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently received the 2015 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine for its efforts to build a more inclusive student body. This fall, Ross launched a new Identity and Diversity and Organizations milestone requirement for undergraduates that aims to give students the skills to work effectively on diverse teams while promoting a positive organizational culture.

Pegasystems, the Cambridge, MA-based software company, has opened a Detroit office to better service its automotive clients, according to a press release sent out by the company. The new office is located inside the Renaissance Center downtown.

Modustri, the Grand Rapids company developing software for the heavy equipment industry, has hired Todd Tjoelker as its chief operating officer to lead the company’s Internet of Things initiative. Tjoelker was most recently was the global product leader for mission systems at GE Aviation, and he’s also worked for Benteler Automotive.

Hygieia, an Ann Arbor medical technology and digital health company, has named Dave Conn to be its new president and head of U.S. business operations. Conn has been tasked with commercializing the company’s d-Nav connected health system, which helps diabetic patients manage their insulin. Previously, Conn served as president of Facet Technologies and chief commercial officer for AgaMatrix.