Gov. Snyder at U-M Tech Transfer event: 'Inspiring, exciting, and great new ideas'
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Ann Arbor’s technology and innovation focused community gathered at the Michigan League Thursday evening for the University of Michigan Office of Technology Transfer’s annual Celebrate Invention event.
The event featured an appearance by the self-named “tough nerd,” Governor Rick Snyder, who said the event felt like a “homecoming” for him.
“I got the power tour through the booths [displaying new inventions] here,” he said.
“What we’ve got here is incredible, there are some inspiring, exciting, and great new ideas.”
The event was a showcase of a few of the 368 new inventions over the past year by University of Michigan faculty.
The office of Technology Transfer helps faculty to take those inventions to the point where they can be licensed by the university and either sold to an existing company or spun off into an entirely new endeavor.
“We’re here to say thanks to the inventors, and to everyone who had a role in this process,” executive director of Tech Transfer Ken Nisbet said.
“Rather than a dry formal event we wanted to bring in the community and allow them to walk up and talk to the inventors, talk to businesspeople, and talk to students who are interested in being a part of this innovation culture.”
Governor Snyder was the first chair of the Tech Transfer National Advisory Board that was founded in 2002. Many of the former members were in attendance at the event which also served as one of the board’s bi-annual meetings. Nisbet said the board has been integral to the success of the office over the past four years, which includes the launching of 98 new startup companies.
“It’s a combination of businesspeople, venture capitalists, and government people,” he said.
“These are great friends of the university of Michigan. They provide us with advice. We’re not asking them for money, the just love helping U-M. That’s their passion.”
Booths were set up around the ballroom in the League, and inventors showed off, prototypes, powerpoints, and iPads featuring their innovations. Anouck Girard and Dr. Josephine Kasa-Vubu were one unlikely team displaying their research. The endocrinologist and aerospace engineer worked together to create a new way of determining “bone age” in children.
Bone age, different from a child’s chronological age, can be effected by a variety of factors such as obesity. Girard explained that the outdated methods developed in 1955 include looking up pictures in books and comparing them to x-rays taken of a child’s left hand. The pair are developing a system that can allow for use of the old system while also giving a better comparison through analyzing data.
“I’m a physician teaming up with an aerospace engineer, and the likelihood of those two disciplines collaborating is so small,” Kasa-Vudu said.
“This experience has been incredible, getting to discuss something that is clinically relevant with people who have real interest in it.”
Girard said the algorithms used in the technology were first developed to help the army determine whether there were enemy combatants in pictures taken by drones. She said she would like to see the new use for the technology being used by the Gates Foundation or another foundation to help children’s health.
“We’re here to make the world a better place,” she said.
Vice president of research for the university Stephen Forrest said he was proud and excited about the year the University of Michigan has had, but that there was still more work to be done.
“We can do better. We’re all in this to become the best and most innovative research university,” he said.
“We want to become the next center of global entrepreneurship.”