Roundup: NextChallenge, Ranker, QuantumShift, Comcast, MBDA & More

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

NextEnergy, Denso, Wells Fargo, and DTE Energy are seeking hardware and software solutions to unmet challenges facing urban areas for NextChallenge: Smart Cities, a global competition designed to inspire innovative technology in smart parking, smart transportation, smart infrastructure, and smart buildings.

Submissions will be accepted through July 28, reviewed by a panel of judges, and scored according to innovation, qualifications, competitive advantage, and scalability. The winner will receive up to $80,000 in funding, and an additional $20,000 will be awarded to as many as four finalists. Monetary awards and programmatic support are funded by a $650,000 grant from Wells Fargo to support NextEnergy’s efforts to drive investment in advanced energy and transportation technologies that address the needs in urban communities. To learn more and review the application process, register for a June 9 webinar here.

—Earlier this month, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and KPMG, a tax and auditing firm, held the inaugural QuantumShift class, a weeklong professional development program open to successful entrepreneurs and executives from high-growth companies. According to the university, the program gives participants an opportunity to learn from distinguished faculty and alums, and offers graduates access to an exclusive peer-to-peer network focused on ongoing problem-solving and mentorship. As a group, the participants’ organizations averaged $62 million in annual revenue and had a combined total revenue of $2.4 billion, and more than half of the executives were named to the 2015 Inc. 5000 list. To learn more about the program and to see a complete list of this year’s participants, click here.

—More from U-M: Thanks to a recent $900,000 award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, an independent nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010, university researchers will be able to share intelligence on rare disease treatments that could make a difference in the lives of the millions of American patients. (Rare diseases are those found in 200,000 or fewer people, most of which have no approved treatments.)

A team led by the U-M School of Public Health and the University of South Florida Health Informatics Institute will study the use of sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART) designs in small patient populations, where a group of patients is followed through several stages of treatment. The researchers will first test their methods using data from a trial with patients who have Isolated Skin Vasculitis, a condition that causes inflamed blood vessels in the skin, and will involve testing between multiple treatments to try and find the best.

Ranker, a Los Angeles, CA-based digital media company specializing in “broad, opinion-based, crowdsourced rankings of everything,” announced last week it has established a sales team in Detroit to focus on automotive and entertainment customers. “It was time to put a highly connected and skilled team in place in this key region,” said David Cohn, the company’s vice president of sales, in a press release.

—The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is awarding $31.5 million in federal funding to 21 grant recipients as part of its MBDA Business Center Program, which is designed to help minority-owned firms create jobs, compete in the global economy, and grow their businesses. Recipients include the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, which will get $310,225 to operate the MBDA Business Center in Detroit.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 survey of business owners, minority-owned firms in the U.S. increased from 5.8 million in 2007 to 8 million in 2012, and employed 7.2 million people in 2012. Since 2009, MBDA Business Centers have assisted minority firms with gaining access to more than $31 billion in capital and contracts, while creating and retaining nearly 142,000 jobs. Detroit is ranked fourth in the nation in terms of the number of minority small-business owners.

Comcast has installed more than 700 outdoor public Wifi hotspots across Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grosse Pointe, Royal Oak, and St. Clair Shores, the company announced today. The hotspots can be found via mobile app for iOS and Android devices, and can be accessed by current customers as well as non-customers. Comcast offers two free, 60-minute sessions to non-customers per month; after that, non-customers can purchase hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly access passes. Earlier this year, Comcast also announced it will introduce the world’s first DOCSIS 3.1-powered gigabit Internet service, which allows ultra-high-speed broadband service over existing cable lines, to residential and business customers in Detroit.

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