Reflecting on a Year of Innovation
With Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development, Charles A. Hassmann
Dear friends and partners of the MSU Innovation Center,
2022 has truly been an interesting year. Like many others, we are now “fully hybrid,” with people working entirely at home, entirely in the office, and everything in between. This new flexibility is good for us, and if well managed, will yield dividends both in our productivity and in our overall well-being. We embrace this new working atmosphere and whatever new changes are yet to come.
Going hybrid was not our only change in 2022. Anne Di Sante accepted the role of Executive Director of MSU Technologies (MSUT), filling the position vacated by Rich Chylla in January. Anne was the clear choice to succeed Rich, with a distinguished career in tech transfer at three prior universities, and an appetite for the challenge this leadership position brings with it. Anne immediately launched a search for her replacement as Associate Director, with Brian Wright (Auburn
University) joining us in January 2023. We also implemented some modest growth
in the team, with Julia Miller joining as a new Technology Manager in MSUT, Leon Ma joining as an Assistant Director for Corporate Relations in Business Connect, and Audrey Sebolt joining MSUT to
grow our support for the large volume of material transfer and confidentiality agreements for MSU. These new hires are key to keeping pace with MSU’s current and planned growth in research funding, as well as with the innovation and corporate engagement that comes with that expanding volume of research.
You will find in the “By the Numbers” section of this report that we are bouncing back from the low levels of productivity that COVID-19 caused in almost every metric. 2022 brought a 25% increase in Corporate Support for research ($25M vs. $20M), and a 30% increase in Invention Disclosures (157 vs 130). Not surprisingly, new startup corporations, a lagging indicator of ecosystem productivity, have not yet rebounded, with 2 new starts in 2022.
Throughout 2022, we had a strong focus on several areas of strength and growth at MSU:
Electrified and Autonomous Mobility was a very active area of partnership, with our ongoing partnership on last-mile micro- mobility with SPIN, an autonomous bus shuttling students on campus, and a host of research partnerships to improve autonomy, batteries, user experience, and other key factors for the future of this revolution in how we get around.
Drug Discovery and Development was another area of growth and success, with both home-grown projects that yielded startup companies (see Portera story), as well as collaborations with corporations driving change in how we do drug discovery (see Atomwise story). Furthermore, two MSU faculty members, Karen Liby and Rob Abramovitch, received prestigious Catalyst Awards from the Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust, supporting their pursuit of life-changing drugs. Both Liby and Abramovitch are “frequent fliers” in the Innovation Center: they have many patents to their names, and both are founders of a startup company.
Nuclear Physics and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) were also a focus of new activity, with FRIB opening its doors in May 2022 as a National User Facility. With the opening, we experienced a new opportunity for corporate engagement, with several major corporations who manufacture or rely on devices that operate in outer space eager to use the facility. Together with the MSU Space Electronics Center, the companies will use the FRIB radiation beam to simulate the harsh interstellar radiation found in outer space— aiming to improve the “space hardness” of devices that spend extended periods exposed to interstellar radiation.
Finally, 2022 saw the continued development of Grand Rapids as a hub for MSU medical research activity and opportunities for corporate and economic development partnerships. MSU opened the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation building, with BAMF Health as a key innovation partner and anchor tenant in the budling. MSU also welcomed Perrigo, which relocated its North American corporate headquarters to the Grand Rapids Innovation Campus. Furthermore, the MSU Research Foundation subsidiary Spartan Innovations grew its Grand Rapids staff and reported strong engagement and growth of support for the GR Innovation Ecosystem through their operations as a Grand Rapids Regional Smart Zone grant recipient.
Thank you for taking time to view the 2022 MSU Innovation Center Annual Report. I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as we love sharing them.
Stay well, and please stay in touch.
Charles A. Hasemann, PhD
Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development