UMN launches 100th startup company commercializing technology

An up-close view of a molecule model

The University of Minnesota announced today that it has launched 100 startup companies over the last 10 years based on technology developed through University research.

The 100 startups, which have been launched since the Venture Center was formed in 2006 as part of the Office for Technology Commercialization, mark a milestone in the University’s efforts to assist faculty and staff in forming new companies to commercialize their inventions. Launching new companies is one of the primary ways the University turns research discoveries into commercial products that fuel the economy and contribute to the public good.

“The University of Minnesota is committed to connecting our researchers to experienced entrepreneurs and to innovative programs, transforming extraordinary discoveries into the birth of 100 companies,” said University President Eric Kaler. “We are proud of our remarkable and ongoing contributions to Minnesota’s innovation culture and entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The startups have allowed the University’s entrepreneurial faculty to drive innovation across a wide range of fields, with companies based in agriculture, energy, engineering, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Three out of four startups are based in Minnesota and 82 percent are still active today, well above the national average. In total, the companies have raised more than $219 million in investment capital.

The expertise of OTC staff and the support of its Business Advisory Group have helped the University excel at startup creation despite a statewide trend of declining investment in entrepreneurship. Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., professor with the University’s Institute of Child Development, said the Venture Center and OTC staff were instrumental in helping form ed-tech startup Reflection Sciences.

“We had a group of 10 schools knocking on our door for the Minnesota Executive Function Scale technology, but no way to provide it,” said Carlson, co-founder and CEO of Reflection Sciences. “OTC helped us work out our business plan, license the IP and make connections with local business advisors and investors. As researchers, Co-Founder Phil Zelazo and I could not have made the transition without their help.”

The Venture Center has developed a broad range of programs that support entrepreneurial faculty and has cultivated networks of partners both within and beyond the U to promote new company creation and advance business development. The center’s CEO-in-Residence program recruits experienced business executives to participate in reviewing University intellectual property and leading or contributing to new startup companies.

Startup growth at the University has also been spurred by training workshops, which have helped to demystify the process of launching a business around University technology. Programs like MIN-Corps, which focuses on accelerating the commercialization of technology from science and engineering fields, and MN-REACH, which focuses on medical devices and pharmaceutical therapies, offer educational and skill development opportunities to teach researchers about the steps toward commercialization, how to form partnerships outside the University and how to develop proposals that show how the technology fits an unmet need.

“This milestone reflects the great work being done by OTC to realize the full potential of breakthrough research being conducted at the University of Minnesota,” said Michael Gorman, managing director at investment firm Split Rock Partners and active supporter of Minnesota’s entrepreneurial community. “When a new technology is compelling and serves a large enough market, the OTC team taps internal resources and external advisors to improve the odds of a successful business being built.  I have been impressed by the team’s efforts to relentlessly pursue the best outcome for the discoveries developed by U of M faculty, whether through licensing or launching new companies.”

In addition to launching startup companies, the University has committed to investing in some of the most promising ideas behind those companies. Existing U startups may qualify for the Discovery Capital Investment Program, which matches external seed funding with up to $350,000 to help accelerate a startup’s path toward launching their product or service. Another option, the Entrepreneurial Leave Program, encourages faculty to temporarily assist companies commercializing inventions or processes they have developed.

For more information on the Venture Center, visit

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