Roundup: Swift Biosciences, Champion of Change, Innovation Research

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

Ann Arbor’s Swift Biosciences announced last week it will partner with SeraCare Life Sciences to accelerate development of novel circulating tumor DNA reference material to be used in liquid biopsies and next-generation sequencing. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. In a press release, Swift Bioscience’s CEO, Timothy Harkins, said this type of work will lay the foundation for transforming future cancer treatments.

—A Utica Community Schools senior was recently honored by President Obama’s administration as a Champion of Change for Computer Science Education because of the week-long IT day camp she created. Christina Li designed Hello World to teach 30 middle school girls about coding, robotics, and app development. Campers also participated in online and in-person meetings with female computer engineers from Google, Microsoft, the Michigan Council for Women in Technology, and Ford, and took field trips to the Microsoft Tech Center, Google’s Ann Arbor office, and the University of Michigan. Li said she hopes to continue working to dismantle the gender gap in technology.

—Every year, Comcast for Business hosts its national Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs competition, where grand prize winners get cash and a day of expert coaching. Last year, Lake Orion’s Fresh Co. Home was one of six national prizewinners. Startup-owner applicants submit a 250-word essay answering the question, “How could you use technology to help enhance your business?” Based on the best answers, two $10,000 winners are selected from 15 regions. From those 30 winners, six grand prize winners will get $20,000 and a trip to Philadelphia to attend group sessions with industry experts. Entries are due March 12.

Comcast for Business also announced it will open up a six-person office in the Midtown neighborhood of Detroit during the first quarter of the year.

—Some interesting research pertaining to innovation was released by the University of Michigan late last month. Yue Maggie Zhou, a professor of strategy at U-M’s Ross School of Business, and co-author Xiaoyang Li of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, found that competition fuels innovation in many industries, but the type of competition makes a huge difference in how much firms spend on research and development. After analyzing the relationship between import competition and innovation among public U.S. manufacturing firms, they found that companies spend more on R&D and generate more breakthrough patents when there’s a greater level of import competition from high-wage countries—and the more successful the company is, the stronger the effects.

“Policymakers should be mindful that the openness of trade with different countries will have different impacts on the long-term performance of domestic firms and on the economy, due to their different impacts on innovation,” Zhou said in a press release.

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