University of Michigan’s Advanced Transportation Hub announces funding to 8 promising mobility projects

The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation at the University of Michigan recently awarded a combined $710,000 to eight high-tech, early-stage projects from a pool of applications received from Michigan universities this cycle.

Of those selected for funding, seven were led by researchers at U-M and one was led by a researcher at Western Michigan University. These projects aim to tackle market needs, offering ways to increase the efficiency, safety and sustainability of moving people and goods.

“The eight projects receiving funding this year through the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation reflect the diversity of advanced automotive technologies being developed at Michigan’s universities,” said Kelly Sexton, U-M associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships. “These technologies hold the potential to fuel our region’s mobility industry in the years to come, and we are grateful to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for their support of this program.”

Researchers presented their proposals to an oversight committee composed of transportation industry experts, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. The researchers will receive mentorship support from the committee members as their projects progress toward commercialization, as well as from U-M Tech Transfer’s staff of Mentors-In-Residence. The eight projects will address mobility needs through the following:

  • Enabling fuel cell vehicles through the production of low-cost, low-CO2, on-site hydrogen
  • Extending the operational domain of driver assistance and autonomous driving systems to provide safe vehicle operation in inclement weather
  • Providing a cleaner alternative to traditional paint through replacing traditional pigments with a process that employs multilayer nanostructures
  • Enabling fast-charging capability in batteries with minimal long-term performance degradation through a laser-patterned electrode process
  • Eliminating a battery degradation mode and enabling high specific energy battery designs through a battery separator technology that preempts dendrite formation
  • Providing low-cost, clean electricity for electric vehicle charging through deployment of a novel, high power density solar module design
  • Reducing the cost of lightweight vehicle structures through an extrusion design solution that reduces scrap generation by 25-50%
  • Saving drivers time and energy through an artificial intelligence and connected vehicle-based traffic signal-optimization service

“With its laser focus on commercialization, the U-M Advanced Transportation MTRAC Innovation Hub provides key support to early-stage technologies hoping to make a revolutionary impact on the transportation sector,” said Denise Graves, university relations director at the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“The funding, along with mentoring and industry guidance, will help them bring their innovative technologies closer to the market. These projects have the potential to solve some challenging issues, and we look forward to seeing how the funding and mentorship help them complete their milestones over the coming year.”

Funded through the Michigan Strategic Fund and administered by the MEDC, the MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation accelerates the development of advanced transportation projects to bring them closer to market. It is part of a network of statewide innovation hubs located at universities that are strong in each particular sector. The transportation hub is housed at U-M’s Office of Technology Transfer.

Through June, the MTRAC hubs have received 423 proposals, funded 183 projects, developed 32 startup companies, licensed 24 technologies to industry partners and secured more than $122 million in follow-on funding.

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