Roundup: SPARK awards, Macomb Innovation Fund, Pro:Up, U-M & More

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

—Macomb Community College’s Innovation Fund, supported by JPMorgan Chase, has awarded $300,000 to five metro Detroit startups. The Innovation Fund is part of a $2.7 million effort to stimulate growth in promising young startups. Companies supported by the Innovation Fund are required to provide internships or other learning experiences to Macomb Community College students.

The awardees are Banza ($100,000), maker of chickpea pasta; Lighthouse Molding ($100,000), developer of new low-pressure over-molding technology; Phasiq ($50,000), a startup working on a cheaper, faster, more accurate way to test multiple health-indicator proteins in a single patient sample; Pro:Up ($25,000), an online marketplace that matches students to extracurricular opportunities related to their educational and career goals; and Sterilogy ($25,000), developer of a hand sanitizer system to be worn by healthcare workers with an electronic compliance system.

The five companies awarded funding were selected from a field of 27 applicants. This is the second cycle of awards for the Innovation Fund, which announced $275,000 in funding to five startups in July.

—The University of Michigan is working with two national laboratories to study whether connected and automated vehicles could help people drive more efficiently. U-M, with Argonne National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory, won a three-year, $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund the research.

U-M will recruit 500 volunteers in the Ann Arbor area to participate in the project. Their personal vehicles will be equipped to collect energy consumption data and information about vehicle motion, such as speed and location, as the volunteers go about their daily routines. (Some of the test vehicles will belong to fleet or commercial users.) The project also will study how drivers react to various functions in connected and automated vehicles, and whether any resulting change in behavior affects energy consumption.

Ann Arbor SPARK honored 14 Washtenaw County businesses last month for growth achievements: those that had revenue of at least $100,000 in 2011 and grew sales at least 20 percent for the following three years. Honorees included Arbor Assays, a research company; Human Element, an e-commerce service provider; InfoReady Corporation, which allows users to quickly find information using matchmaking algorithms; TekWissen, a software development company with offices in the U.S. and India; Sungrace Software, a specialist in IT-enabled engineering and engineering services; and supply-chain software company LLamasoft.

—More accolades for Pro:Up, this time from the Mobileys, Mobile Future’s annual awards for mobile innovations. Pro:Up won third place in the national competition, taking home $2,500 in prize money.

Business Leaders for Michigan, a statewide advocacy organization comprised of C-level executives from Michigan’s biggest companies and universities, met last month for a CEO summit to discuss the state’s economic future. According to a press release sent by the organization, panelists argued that Michigan’s prosperity is threatened by a lack of cohesion behind a common growth strategy and inability to prioritize investments in areas that will improve the state’s overall competitiveness, such as education and training beyond high school, innovation, and economic development.

Business Leaders for Michigan presented a benchmarking report, which highlights weaknesses and suggests areas of improvement.

—Baker College of Jackson has upgraded its computer lab and added a new business center in order to accommodate a growing number of students in IT programs, the school announced in a press release. New equipment in the cyber defense lab includes multiple Cisco routers and a virtual server. NetLab+, remote-access software with curriculum content, allows students to virtually connect with the program server to practice offensive and defensive cyber attack techniques.

CBI, a Michigan-based provider of IT risk management services and products, is currently seeking candidates for its Detroit CBI Academy, an intensive two-year program to prepare participants for a computer security career. The program begins with a 12-week apprenticeship, followed by shadowing and mentoring. Upon completion of the apprentice program, Academy employees are given entry-level, junior-level, and mid-level consulting positions over the next two years.

Candidates are typically recent graduates with an IT degree, intermediate IT professionals, 0r military veterans with an IT background, and must have experience with basic network and server administration skills and a passion for growing their IT knowledge. To apply, submit a resume here.

NH Learning Solutions, a network of 17 New Horizons Computer Learning Centers across 10 states, kicked off a new program for veterans in Detroit on Nov. 16. Part of the Technical Talent Development Program and funded through Automation Alley, the program consists of 12 weeks of training that provides participants with the skills and industry-recognized vendor certifications for select IT occupations, including app developer, database administrator, computer support specialist, and project manager. Those interested in the training program should contact NHLS at (734) 853-2060 or send an e-mail to info@nhls.com.

Foodjunky, the Detroit-based online food-ordering system, has announced a new partnership with City Sherpa and Detroit Bikes that will enable delivery from any of the website’s downtown restaurants to any location in the Motor City’s central business district. To celebrate the partnership, City Sherpa will offer a $10 discount on the delivery fee through Friday.

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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