Roundup: Ann Arbor SPARK, Simple Continuity, NEIdeas, U-M & More

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

Ann Arbor SPARK held its 27th annual entrepreneur boot camp earlier this month, and a panel of investors and industry insiders voted Simple Continuity the winner. Simple Continuity makes business analytics software, and the company is targeting industries with complicated regulations, such as banking. More than 100 entrepreneurs, drill instructors, and mentors participated in the boot camp; the next one will be held in the spring.

—The New Economy Initiative announced the final winners in its annual NEIdeas challenge, a two-tiered competition open to Detroit small businesses operating for at least three years. In November, NEI awarded 30 small businesses $10,000 each. For the second part of the challenge, two businesses that gross between $75,000 and $5 million annually were each awarded $100,000. The 2015 winners are Public Lumber & Millwork, a woman-owned hardwood supplier and millwork manufacturer established in 1927, and the Russell Street Deli, an Eastern Market diner known for fresh and local ingredients, great soup, and the tendency to allow strangers to share tables when it’s busy. (Last time I was there during peak lunch madness, I had an intriguing conversation with a Detroit judge and his wife after the the host seated me at their table.) Of the 64 total NEIdeas winning businesses to date, 70 percent are minority-owned, 64 percent are owned by women, and 47 percent are owned by a minority woman. Check out the full list online.

—According to a new report from Business Leaders for Michigan, a professional and advocacy organization comprised of the state’s executives and university leaders, higher education remains a bright spot. Twelve of 15 Michigan institutions surveyed this year reported higher enrollment rates than when the report was first conducted in 2012, 11 had higher graduation rates, and 10 had higher student retention rates.

“In the short term, this translates into more students here in our state boosting economic activity and generating new research,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, in a press release. “Over the long haul, however, higher enrollment means increased investment and potentially higher population, entrepreneurship, and opportunities for statewide economic advancement.”

—S. Jack Hu has been appointed the University of Michigan’s vice president of research. Hu, who teaches mechanical engineering and industrial operations at the university, has served as the interim vice president for research since January 2014. As vice president, Hu oversees a $1.3 billion research operation across campuses in Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn—one of the nation’s biggest research efforts at a public university.

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