The university’s Venture Center created the “Discovery Launchpad” initiative to assist researchers who wish to put emerging technologies to market. It is actively partnered with eight entrepreneurs and expects to graduate eight this fiscal year.
“This is simply a far, much more systematic and comprehensive procedure than it was previously,” said Russ Straate, associate director of the Venture Center. “It has been resourced and formalized in order to provide a much more rigorous incubation of our startups.”
The University of Minnesota is expanding its Discovery Launchpad incubator to include beyond startups, naming it Discovery Launchpad MN.
The incubator, which will begin with a class of giving entrepreneurs, will be run by the University of Minnesota’s Technology Commercialization Venture Center and will be financed by the state’s Launch Minnesota initiative. Any startup that has secured an Innovation Grant from Launch Minnesota is eligible for the accelerator.
It is an extension of the University of Utah’s original Discovery Launchpad incubator, which assists in the development of startups created with technologies built at the university.
“We are delighted to apply the Discovery Launchpad concept, which has aided many UMN entrepreneurs, to high-potential startups from around the state—and thereby directly add to Minnesota’s entrepreneurship ecosystem,” said Russ Straate, associate director of the university’s Venture Center.
The software starts with an evaluation phase in which company owners consult with Discovery Launchpad advisors to evaluate their companies. When their organization is accepted, the entrepreneur will work out of a joint office room with advisors that will help steer corporate strategies. The startup will formally open after finishing the program, which takes six months; the incubator and its advisors will continue to help the startup through the launch and for up to two years after program completion.
“When we evaluate, we look at the kind of leadership experience they have,” Straate said. “We’ll also look at how much preparation and thinking went into the business’s setup, creation, and formulation.”
According to the university, program mentors include representatives from startups as well as large Minnesota corporations such as Cargill, 3M Co., and Medtronic.
The University of Minnesota has a long tradition of funding projects that arose from university studies. One of the most notable achievements was a license agreement for the HIV medication Ziagen, which is now marketed through pharmaceutical behemoth GlaxoSmithKline. In 2009, the U earned approximately $86 million from this transaction.
The University of Minnesota announced about $16 million in sales from agreements licensing its researchers’ discoveries in 2018, the lowest number reported by the school since at least 2014. Minneapolis-based Flipgrid, which was sold to Microsoft Corp. for an undisclosed sum last year, and Tukwila, Wash.-based Genoa were two university-born businesses that sold last year. (Genoa was later sold to UnitedHealth Group Inc., headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota.)
In 2006, the University of Utah’s Venture Center was created. It has since launched over 140 startup companies focused on university studies.