MI Roundup: Plymouth Ventures, DTE app, MTRAC awards, Beringea, more

Here’s a look at news from around Michigan’s innovation hubs:

—Ann Arbor-based Plymouth Ventures has announced the final close for its $60 million Plymouth Venture Partners III (PVPIII) fund. The fund will invest in growth-stage startups headquartered in the Great Lakes region. Managing partner Mark Horne says the fund-raising process for PVPIII took eight months. “We were fortunate enough to have strong backing from our Plymouth Venture Partners II limited partners and from institutions—over 50 percent of PVPIII’s committed capital comes from regional institutions,” Horne said in a press release.

The deal included adding Evan Ufer as a new partner and Chris Frick as chief financial officer.

DTE Energy, the Detroit-based energy company, has released a free app for the iPhone that measures energy efficiency to help its customers track how they use energy. (An Android version of the app is coming soon.) DTE Insight offers energy consumption tracking, a personalized energy-savings coach, tips for a more energy-efficient home, and weekly challenges meant to encourage customers to save energy. The app was developed by Vectorform, Saline Lectronics, and M.A.K.S.

—The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) program has announced three bio-ag projects selected for grants worth a total of $268,841. Bruno Basso’s GeoYields project is a comprehensive crop yield model system, which enables higher crop production, and integrates telemetry data from unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). Bruce Dale is working on large-scale production of bio-based chemicals using Michigan State University’s patented Ammonia Fiber Expansion (AFEX) pre-treatment technology. Gemma Reguera has developed a novel electrochemical bioreactor design that can convert pretreated feedstocks, like corn stover, into useful products such as biofuel.

The goal of the MTRAC program is help bring these discoveries to market. Supported by MSU’s office of the vice president for research and graduate studies and the MSU Innovation Center, MSU MTRAC was established through a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s 21st Century Jobs Fund. “This new partnership allows us to translate lab technologies into commercial products that can help solve global problems,” said Andrew McColm, MSU MTRAC’s program director, in a press release.

—The technology and business organization Automation Alley will partner with Tata Technologies to offer product lifecycle management classes, which will include training in Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD, CATIA V5, and NX. The classes will be held at the Automation Alley Product Lifecycle Management Center in the business accelerator at Oakland University and Tata Technologies in Novi. (To register for classes, click here.)

—Abisola Togunde, a student at Eastern Michigan University, was one of 11 female students nationwide to be awarded the 2014 Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security, which is given by Hewlett-Packard and the Applied Computer Security Associates to help close the IT security skills gap in the workplace.

According to the press release, 40 percent of IT security jobs will go unfilled in 2014. At the supervisory level, 58 percent of IT jobs lack candidates. Sixty universities are working with HP to develop security-specific IT courses to help educate the next generation of security professionals.

Beringea, the private equity firm based in Farmington Hills, MI, and London, has invested $5.1 million in Chargemaster, which makes components for the electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Founded in 2008, Chargemaster is the largest supplier of EV equipment in the UK. Chargemaster will use the funding to expand into the European market.

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