Roundup: Zoetis, Agtech Incubator, Knight Cities Challenge & More

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

—On Tuesday, Ann Arbor’s Plymouth Venture Partners announced it had sold its stake in 365 Retail Markets to Boston-based McCarthy Capital Fund VI; the terms of the deal were not disclosed. As we reported in 2013, 365 Retail Markets is a Troy-based startup that designs and develops unmanned, miniature convenience stores, which it considers to be the future of vending.

—Zoetis (NYSE: ZTS), the Kalamazoo-based maker of animal health medicines and vaccines, splashed out $80 million earlier this month to purchase privately held Scandinavian Micro Biodevices, a pioneer of microfluidic “lab on a chip” diagnostic tests used by veterinarians. In a press release, the company said the acquisition gives Zoetis an expanded pipeline in the fast-growing lab-on-a-chip market.

“By combining our experience, production, and R&D capabilities, we can enhance our ability to develop point-of-care diagnostics to address veterinarians’ most pressing challenges in clinics and on farms,” said Ole Kring, CEO of Scandinavian Micro Biodevices.

—Thanks to improving technology, more demand for electricity, and an ongoing need to reduce emissions, a group of agencies from Michigan and Northeast Ohio have collaborated on a plan to accelerate the region’s clean energy sector and capitalize on growth trends. The Clean Energy Roadmap offers a detailed snapshot of the ecosystem, outlining strengths and barriers. Stakeholders such as Detroit’s  NextEnergy said in a press release that both states have similar challenges and the opportunity to leverage unique strengths that, if successful, will buoy the entire region.

iTizzimo, a startup from Würzburg, Germany—a lovely, fun city this reporter had the privilege of living in as an exchange student—has opened its first U.S. office in Ann Arbor SPARK‘s Central Innovation Center. According to a press release, iTizzimo is a well-known company in Europe and the creator of Simplifier, a Web-based programming platform used to design and configure business processes and applications.

“The business idea is simple: give corporations and their managed service providers a method to quickly create, customize, and maintain integrated business applications in the face of growing digital transformation requirements,” the company said.

SPARK said it worked to recruit iTizzimo to the area and will offer the company assistance with a range of business needs, including securing legal services and identifying potential partners in Michigan.

—Calling all Michigan life scientists: MichBio is seeking nominations for its top statewide awards. Innovator of the Year seeks to recognize someone from the Michigan bioscience community who, during the past year, has made a significant contribution to the “advancement of knowledge and understanding of biological processes through a technology, process, or product either in an academic or commercial setting.” The Good to Great award will honor a Michigan bioscience company “whose business concept, entrepreneurialism, leadership, and work ethic have combined to produce a leap forward in the past year that has, or has the potential to have, an important quality-of-life impact for people.”

Nominations are due by Sept. 4; the awards will be announced at the MichBio Expo on Sept. 28.

—The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded a $55,000 grant to Ottawa County’s Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator in support of marketing, training, and outreach efforts. The USDA funding comes from the Rural Business Development Grant program and will help the incubator promote its services and better connect with farmers, entrepreneurs, and investors.

The Knight Cities Challenge is back and will accept submissions for this year’s edition Oct. 10-Nov. 3. The challenge offers $5 million in grant funding for innovative projects that work toward making any of the 26 Knight communities, including Detroit, more successful. Knight is seeking ideas in three categories: attracting and retaining talent, increasing economic opportunity, and promoting civic engagement. The challenge is designed to be a source of risk capital to test new ideas and explore what works—ideally so it can be spread across Knight’s network. Winners will be announced in the spring.

—Volunteers are needed for the STEMinista Summer Exploration and Summer Hackathon happening Aug. 29-Sept. 2 at the Michigan Science Center. The program will teach middle school girls mobile app development and how to turn their hobbies into online businesses, with guidance from Digerati Girls. (Click here to register, or call 313-577-8400, option 5.)

—Finally, a bit of personnel news: Tom Kelly has been promoted to executive director of Automation Alley, the statewide technology business association. He has big shoes to fill; outgoing director Ken Rogers was on the post for 17 years. Kelly previously served as the organization’s chief operations officer and spearheaded efforts to launch the 7Cs program.

Asandi Conner has been named director of Wayne State University’s Detroit Revitalization Fellows program. She succeeds Graig Donnelly, who took over as assistant vice president for economic development at Wayne State and chief strategy officer at TechTown Detroit in April.

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