WI Watchlist: E-Scooters, CUNA Mutual Incubator, Curate Funding & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

[Updated 7/23/19, 8:48 am CT. See below.] It’s time to catch up on some recent Wisconsin innovation headlines:

—CMFG Ventures, the venture capital arm of Madison-based CUNA Mutual Group, announced today that it’s creating a financial technology incubator in partnership with the nonprofit Filene Research Institute, a consumer finance think tank. The incubator is seeking fintech and insurance tech products and services that might be useful for credit unions. Startups selected for the program will have their products and services tested for six months by up to 12 credit unions, according to a press release emailed to Xconomy.

—Curate Solutions closed a $1.6 million funding round led by Idea Fund of La Crosse, BizTimes Milwaukee reported. Allos Ventures contributed to the investment. Idea Fund is one of the new Wisconsin-based venture funds seeded in part by state money through the Badger Fund of Funds.

Madison-based Curate Solutions developed web-crawling software that scans municipal meeting minutes and agendas and sends the information to clients. General contractors and engineering firms use the info to scout construction projects and track competitors’ activity. Local and state associations also use the product to more easily follow issues being discussed in communities, according to Curate’s website.

—Electric scooters are returning to Milwaukee streets, this time with the blessing of state and local government officials. Earlier this month, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill that authorizes the use of e-scooters on Wisconsin roads and sidewalks, and the Milwaukee Common Council passed a measure allowing e-scooters and launched a pilot study of the dockless scooters.

Last year, e-scooter sharing company Bird unexpectedly launched a fleet of scooters on Milwaukee streets. Bird and its competitors rent scooters to the public; users pay for short-term rides via a mobile app. Before Evers signed the bill, the city of Milwaukee had argued e-scooters weren’t allowed under state law. It sued Bird after the company defied a cease-and-desist letter; Bird later removed the scooters, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The city and Bird settled the lawsuit this year, and the terms of their agreement were released earlier this month.

—The Medical College of Wisconsin received a $400,000 Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. grant for its Therapeutic Accelerator Program (TAP). TAP supports drug discovery and development work by the college’s scientists, ideally resulting in therapies that can be licensed, further developed in partnership with life science companies, or spun out as startups. The grant will also fund training and educational experiences for biohealth workers, according to a press release.

—Nexus Pharmaceuticals, an Illinois-based firm that produces specialty and generic injectable drugs, announced that its first manufacturing facility will be located in Pleasant Prairie, WI. The multi-phase construction project will cost an estimated $250 million and take up to 10 years to complete, according to a press release. Nexus plans to invest $85 million in the first phase—a 100,000-square-foot, there-story production building expected to be completed by 2021. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has offered up to $1.5 million in state income tax credits over the next four years, depending on the number of jobs created and amount invested by Nexus.

—And we’ve got one other construction project update: NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes said it finished construction of a 20,000-square-foot facility at its Beloit headquarters. The space will be used to process molybdenum-99, which decays into technetium-99m, the most widely used radioisotope in medical imaging procedures.

On Tuesday, NorthStar announced it was awarded $15 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration in a cooperative agreement; NorthStar will also invest $15 million as part of the agreement. The money will go toward expanding the company’s molybdenum-99 production capacity and efficiency, and enhancing NorthStar’s technologies, according to a press release. [This paragraph added.—Eds.]

Click here to read more about NorthStar, whose parent company raised $75 million in funding earlier this year.