Roundup: Ford, SPLT, Digital Divas, Invest Michigan, & More

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

Ford recently began a 10-year transformation of its Dearborn headquarters with the goal of creating a “modern, green, and high-tech campus to foster innovation and help drive the company’s transition to an auto and a mobility company,” according to a press release.

The 60-year-old facilities will be pared down to two campuses from the 70 buildings that are in operation now. “More than 7.5 million square feet of workspace will be rebuilt and upgraded” to allow better-connected facilities, Ford said. The 30,000 Ford employees that work in Dearborn can look forward to a walkable area with paths, trails, and more green spaces, the company said. The revamped campuses will also “include a new design center, autonomous vehicles, on-demand shuttles, eBikes, new onsite employee services,” and wireless connectivity speeds up to 10 times faster than today, according to the release.

To watch a video featuring an artist’s rendering of what the updated facilities will look like, click here.

—As part of last week’s SAE World Congress, the 8th annual Global Automotive & Mobility Innovation Challenge was held in partnership with NextEnergy and the MI Innovation Alliance. More than 40 companies from around the world applied to this year’s contest, and nine became finalists during the final pitch event held in Detroit on March 10. Four winners in four categories were announced last week: Holland’s Jolt Energy Storage Technologies (connected cars); Ann Arbor-based Civionics (advanced materials, sensors, and manufacturing processes); Ann Arbor’s IndustryStar (new automotive and business opportunities); and Wixom-based SurClean (automotive innovation). Each team will get $50,000 in cash and business acceleration services. 

—A team from Baker College in Flint walked away the winners of the Michigan Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, held last month in Grand Rapids.

Eleven teams from around the state participated. During the competition, teams spent an hour protecting their applications, which were booby-trapped. The event then started as as teams were asked to respond to attacks—known as “injections”— and complete other tasks. Next, a team of professional “white hat” hackers attacked the systems to find vulnerable portions to exploit. Unlike years past, only two of the hackers were on-site; the remaining eight launched their attacks from around the country.

The competition was organized by the Michigan Collegiate Cyber Defense Network, a group of network engineers, security experts, and teachers working together to improve cyber defense education in the state.

—Detroit-based ridesharing startup SPLT is the winner of this year’s local edition of Google Demo day, Google announced this week. SPLT will represent Detroit next month at the national Google Demo day event in Mountain View, CA. While there, SPLT will have the opportunity to present a five-minute pitch and will get feedback at a series of workshops. This year’s pitch judges are Steve Case, chairman of Revolution and the Case Foundation; Bedy Yang, managing partner of 500 Startups; and Andreessen Horowitz partner Frank Chen.

Google for Entrepreneurs works with 10 tech hubs across North America, including Detroit, to find up-and-coming startups to showcase and introduce to investors at the annual Silicon Valley event. To watch a live stream of the pitch contest, tune into the Google for Entrepreneurs YouTube channel on May 4 between 10 am. and noon PT.

—More than 500 young women from across the state will gather at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti this weekend for the daylong Digital Divas conference, where they’ll have a chance to explore science, technology, engineering, and math, and “network with industry leaders, professors, and students,” according to a press release. Organizers pointed to statistics to explain why they’re holding the event: Even though more women than men are enrolled in college, and women make up more than half the workforce, 75 percent of STEM jobs are held by men.

The conference “will provide these young women with a great opportunity to explore high-paying exciting careers in the technology field,” EMU professor Pamela Becker said in a statement. “There are so many more options available now for women who pursue careers in technology.”

Participants will learn about a variety of tech-related topics in 22 interactive sessions, including coding, connected cars, 3D modeling, and wind energy. The attendees represent 13 school districts in Oakland, Jackson, Livingston, Kent, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.

Invest Michigan, the entity that manages the Michigan Pre-Seed Fund 2.0, has added Jim Tenzillo to the team to assist with technology investments. Previously, Tenzillo served as the vice president of operations and marketing strategy for LinkCapital, a Chicago-based startup offering loan refinancing for medical professionals. Invest Michigan, which has $10.5 million under management, has completed 33 investments in 26 companies across the state.

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