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Lawrence Tech business incubator wins NEI grant, looks toward expansion

The LTU Collaboratory, Lawrence Technological University’s business incubator and accelerator, is planning to expand its business and technology-based mentorship services, workshops, and events. The move is made possible thanks to a one-year $40,000 grant from the New Economy Initiative. It’s the first time NEI has awarded a grant to the Southfield-based university.

Small manufacturers and emerging hardware startups in Southeast Michigan stand to benefit most from the grant. The money will also be used to engage more high schoolers, college students, and young adults in product and manufacturing-related innovation challenges.

"As a leading resource to small and start-up companies developing innovative, engineered products, the LTU Collaboratory can now provide additional key resources for these companies to grow and scale up their operations, thanks to this NEI grant," said Mark Brucki, executive director of community and corporate partnerships at LTU.

"We are looking forward to getting more students involved in manufacturing as well."

It’s another improvement for the LTU Collaboratory. LTU is planning on a new 6,300 sq. ft. accelerator space for its Southfield campus by spring 2019.

NEI Senior Program Officer Maria LaLonde cites Southeast Michigan’s abundance of engineering talent, manufacturing expertise, patent research initiatives, and export activity in praising the deal.

"We are very excited to be partnering with LTU to offer small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs critical resources to keep them on the leading edge of innovation and growth," said LaLonde.

"As a university-based accelerator program, LTU is also a key partner to engage and develop the next generation of design, engineering and manufacturing talent in Michigan."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.


How can Pontiac's tech economy grow? Sustain the momentum, entrepreneurs say

Enthusiastic. Scrappy. Upcoming. Those were just a few of the words used to describe Pontiac and its tech economy at the June 6 High Growth Happy Hour: Pontiac’s Tech Economy, held at the Paissa Building in downtown Pontiac.
 
The event was the second in the Comcast High Growth Happy Hour series, and was co-sponsored by the New Economy Initiative and Metromode.
 
Panelists were Matt Russell, Elaina Farnsworth, and Mark Hillman, with moderator Glen Konopaskie. Konopaskie is a consultant in the area on connected vehicles and a former director of Main Street Pontiac.
 
Russell leads several tech startups in Pontiac, including Cynerge Consulting, where he leads a team in enterprise-grade application development, cloud migration, and data center support. Elaina Farnsworth is CEO of The NEXT Education, a company focused on preparing talent for the new mobility economy. Hillman is CEO of Lenderful, one of the Pontiac-based high-tech software startups under the umbrella of MadDog Technology.
 
Read on for three takeaways from the event.
 
Pontiac has an image problem and an identity crisis.
 
All three panelists, as well as the moderator, agreed that Pontiac has an image problem. Since coming out from under emergency management, the downtown is looking better, vacancy rates are falling, and the city is safe, but the public at large doesn't perceive it that way.
 
"Pontiac is the safest city in Oakland County in terms of crime per capita and has been for the last eight years," Konopaskie says.
 
Coupled with the image problem is an identity crisis. Hillman says the city needs to do a better job of picking a focus and branding itself.
 
"There are a million things the town can be, and I have advocated specifically that business leaders and government at whatever level pick an identity and focus for the area," Hillman says. She suggested that technology and the arts could create a strong synergistic identity for the city, one that makes it feel "funky and cool."
 
Russell agreed that the combination of tech and art make Pontiac a cool place, along with its beautiful historic buildings.
 
"I think we could build around those two anchors, bring different vibes in, a youthful, creative energy," Russell says. Russell added that he has used photos of the Riker building where his business is located to draw in talent and show off what downtown Pontiac has to offer.
 
"We can use that as a recruiting engine, and bring in people who want to live here," he says.
 
Location is one of Pontiac's strongest assets.
 
Konopaskie says that Pontiac is exactly the place where a "small company can make a big splash" in a way they couldn't in a bigger city like Detroit.
 
He also notes that Pontiac is a natural hub, being the seat of Oakland County and located at the end of Woodward Ave., which is the site of the first mile of concrete road ever built in the entire nation.
 
Hillman says Pontiac is a place where companies can "bring the jobs to the people instead of bringing the people to the jobs."
 
Most people would prefer not to commute for an hour or more, but many do, because the well-paying tech jobs they want are in Ann Arbor or Detroit, Hillman says. But with Pontiac being so close to major highways, a commute from a nearby metro Detroit suburb could be only 10 or 15 minutes.
 
Farnsworth notes that a major paradigm shift in transportation is coming up in 2020, and the city needs to be ready for it. The next two years, she says, are the time for Pontiac to establish a plan for being a connected vehicle hub.
 
"We can't let this chance pass us by," she says. "We have two years before we have to have a plan in place or let another area get this. If we drag our feet like we have been, we won't be able to see the fruits."
 
Pontiac is poised for explosive growth — if the right collaborations happen.
 
All the panelists and the moderator agreed that public-private partnerships and buy-in from city government will be important to support and grow the tech economy in Pontiac.
 
Entrepreneurs won't keep coming to the city with cool ideas if they keep getting tripped up by bureaucracy, Russell says.
 
In addition to her work in Michigan, Farnsworth also works and does speaking engagements in Silicon Valley and says that, instead of competing, companies there want the whole region to succeed.
 
"That vibe is here in Pontiac," she says. "The challenge is that it seems like we can't get out of our own way. We have the vibe, we want things to move, but the execution isn't there yet. We need to talk about what we're doing, pick a strategy, and do it, even if it's not perfect. We've got the energy, but the follow-through is not there yet."
 
She adds that Pontiac already has much of what it needs to be a hub for the mobility and connected vehicle industry.
 
"We need to look at leveraging the assets we have here, take what's already in place and grow that," Farnsworth says.

Work of Troy-based engineering company featured in Canadian museum exhibit on biomimicry

A Canadian museum is showcasing innovative applications of biomimicry in vehicle design, and a Troy-based company is one of the key players involved.

The engineering firm Altair, headquartered in Troy, has several products featured in the temporary exhibition Inspiring NATURE, inspired TECHNOLOGY: Biomimicry and Transportation at the Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier in Valcourt, Quebec.

A vehicle frame structure showcased in the exhibit was designed using three of the company’s products, OptiStruct, RADIOSS, and Inspire. The frame structure utilizes biomimicry in its design, a practice that emulates patterns and structures found throughout the natural world.

According to the company, Altair’s optimization technology allowed designers and engineers to use the loads and forces the product is subjected to as inputs, generating innovative material layouts. Designers and engineers used the technology to investigate structurally-efficient concepts based on biomimicry principles, using natural designs to solve human riddles.

"It is a pleasure and an honor for Altair to have been invited to collaborate with the Museum of ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier to develop the cross-Canada exhibition on innovation from nature and biomimicry," said Bob Little, managing director of Altair Engineering Canada. "Altair’s solutions for simulation-driven design and optimization are having a real impact on the ability of our customers to develop innovative new designs with greater confidence and in less time."

The exhibition will stay at the Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier for a year before it travels cross-country.

"This exhibition showcases the work done by the Museum team and several partners whose collaboration has been most valuable," said Carol Pauzé, director of the Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier.

"Did you know that nature rewards cooperation? As was the case with Inspiring NATURE, inspired TECHNO, it leads to amazing results."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.


Doctor teams with Beaumont, GVSU: Invents lifesaving cough-assist

Excerpt

The act of coughing may seem annoying, but for those who can no longer cough on their own because of a medical condition, it's a matter of life and death. Today, more people are surviving brain/spinal cord injuries caused by stroke and automobile accidents. Many of these individuals are unable to cough on their own, leaving them susceptible to infection and a collapsed lung.

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Bloomfield Hills' Michigan Israel business accelerator appoints first CEO

Excerpt

The Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MIBA) in Bloomfield Hills announced it has appointed Sandy Selinger as its first CEO.

The organization leverages collaboration between Michigan and Israel to build technology, industry, and research. It is backed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

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Automation Alley's Technology in Industry Report reveals strengths and gaps in industry 4.0

Automation Alley, Michigan’s leading technology and manufacturing business association, unveiled the findings of its research report on Industry 4.0 (the Fourth Industrial Revolution), today at its Technology in Industry Reveal event at the Detroit Institute of Arts. More than 300 guests were in attendance to hear the key findings of the first collaborative Industry 4.0 report of its kind in Michigan.  
 
The report, Harness the Power of Industry 4.0, is comprised of emerging trends, challenges, opportunities and implications for industry, and is designed to help manufacturers, educators and policy makers keep pace with rapid technological changes in Michigan and beyond. Research is centered on the eight core technologies of Industry 4.0: the Industrial Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence, Big Data, cloud computing, cybersecurity, advanced materials and additive manufacturing, and modeling, simulation, visualization and immersion. 
 
Key findings of Automation Alley’s 2018 Technology in Industry report, Harness the Power of Industry 4.0 include:
  • While data and information are valuable (and we have more than ever before), companies will be able to differentiate themselves by the people, tools and execution put toward utilizing that data. The promise of Big Data is not in analyzing past trends to predict potential future trends, but in analysis of what is happening now to determine today’s next steps: real-time intelligence.
     
  • Industry 4.0 is bringing tremendous change in ways that can’t yet be fully comprehended, but the companies who can adopt a new mindset and new skillsets within their organizations are likely to find the greatest success. While some jobs will be eliminated by Industry 4.0, it’s more important to note that new and different types of work will emerge. For companies, re-skilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if they are to find the talent they need to deliver the work of the future. In order to navigate the chaos and identify and capitalize on the disruptive opportunities associated with Industry 4.0, we must create a culture of dynamic thinkers across all levels of society.
     
  • Domestic and foreign adoption of Industry 4.0 will not be identical or on the same timeline. Companies with multinational operations should not attempt a one-size-fits-all approach. Between 2015 and 2018, approximately 1.3 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world. That growth will be led by China and Europe, with North America a distant third.Manufacturing execution systems are critical for a transformation to Industry 4.0. Industries in Germany and Japan have been very successful in implementing these systems; however, American industries are behind. While large OEMs and major Tier 1 suppliers may accept the digital transformation, many Tier 2, Tier 3 and small manufacturing entities are struggling with the technological changes of Industry 4.0.
     
  • Automation will reshape the workforce and the smart factory floor but the people factor will remain the greatest asset -and greatest hindrance- to success. In addition to technical knowhow, 21st Century skills need to leverage the disruption of Industry 4.0 and innovate in new ways. The report outlines three types of skill sets future workers must embrace.
  • Discerning Skills, meaning conceptual and futuristic thinking
  • People Skills, including teamwork and understanding others
  • Purposeful Skills, which involve self-starting and continuous learning
 
“Last year was the first time we tackled the topic of Industry 4.0 in our Technology Report, surveying national and regional technology and manufacturing leaders to gauge whether they were ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Tom Kelly, Automation Alley’s executive director and CEO. “What we found from that initial survey in 2017 was that most executives either lacked awareness of Industry 4.0 altogether or were experiencing barriers to adoption. That was truly the impetus towards our own Industry 4.0 evolution and the reason the 2018 report is so robust.”  
 
For the first time in the 11-year history of Automation Alley’s annual Technology in Industry Report, this year’s research was compiled and analyzed by a collaborative team of academic and corporate partners who embrace the dynamics of Industry 4.0: University of Detroit Mercy, with Dr. David Pistrui serving as overall academic lead researcher; Central Michigan University; Baker College; Oakland University; Lawrence Technological University; Oakland Community College; Macomb Community College; Ford Motor Company; Comau; Eaton; Fanuc; Siemens PLM; TTI Success Insights; Plante Moran; RSM and The Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN).  
 
“It’s fitting that academia, industry and the nonprofit sector collaborated on this report, because an important take-away from the findings is that Industry 4.0 readiness will require academic institutions to collaborate with industry and policy makers to realign and reform education around the needs of the marketplace,” Kelly said. “We appreciate the combined research efforts of our academic partners and corporate leaders in creating a report we believe offers critical considerations for next steps in Industry 4.0 implementation.” 
 
To purchase the report, visit automationalley.com/techreport.
 
About Automation Alley
Automation Alley is a nonprofit technology and manufacturing business association and Michigan's Industry 4.0 knowledge center, with a global outlook and a regional focus. We connect industry, academia and government to fuel Michigan's economy and accelerate innovation. We offer programs and services in business growth, entrepreneurship, talent development, defense and international business, providing resources and knowledge to help our members grow and prosper in the digital age.
 
Our Mission
The mission of Automation Alley is to position Michigan as a global leader in Industry 4.0 by helping our members increase revenue, reduce costs and think strategically during a time of rapid technological change.

LTU wins first, third place in national competition for assistive design

Two teams from Lawrence Technological University took first and third place in the SourceAmerica Design Challenge, a national competition to design workplace products that improve the employability of people with disabilities.

An LTU team won first place for its Cube XL Assembly, which nearly doubled the assembly output of employees assembling equipment to fasten pipes to interior surfaces on buildings. The device allows people who have the use of only one hand to perform the task.

Finishing in third place was another LTU team’s Clip Assembly Device, which allows people with limited hand function to assemble a clip used in automotive headrests.

Lawrence Tech’s sophomore-year engineering design studio class has been working for two years to develop products like these for Services to Enhance Potential (STEP), a Dearborn-based charity that works to boost employment prospects for people with disabilities.

“It’s incredibly valuable to us,” Steve Slayton, STEP’s director of business development, said of LTU’s assistance. “Both of the designs this year made big impacts for our clients. The tools that the students create allow our clients to do jobs that they were not able to do before, and allow our clients to really increase their productivity.”

More than 120 teams of high school and college students in STEM programs across the country competed in the challenge. Three collegiate and five high school teams were selected for the finals competition, held in early April in Washington, D.C.

A member of the first place team, Bram Ligon, called the competition “a pretty eye opening experience.” The sophomore mechanical engineering major from Rochester Hills said it was “really awesome, getting to work with the various subject matter experts and hear their stories about how other teams have developed assistive technologies for people with disabilities.” Ligon said the teams made their presentations in a conference setting with about 150 people present, before a panel of judges that included current and former staffers with IBM, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Academy of Engineering.

A member of the third place team, Victoria Pellerito, a junior mechanical engineering major from Macomb Township, added: “Beginning to end, it was amazing. The moments leading up to the presentation were nerve-wracking, but once we got up there and started presenting, it was great. You knew everyone there genuinely cared.”

John Bowen, a member of the first-place team and a sophomore double major in biomedical engineering and molecular and cell biology from Williamston, said the event featured a packed schedule of workshops and discussions daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., “and then we’d practice our presentations until midnight.” The teams also met with staffers of U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell.

The faculty teaching the sophomore engineering design class said the SourceAmerica and STEP relationships have truly brought home design thinking concepts for the engineering students.

“The relationship with STEP has made all the difference in the level of student engagement and ownership within the design studio,” said Cristi Bell-Huff, director of LTU’s Studio for Entrepreneurial Engineering Design (SEED). “Having real customers to empathize with and really create value for has made a lasting impact on our students’ professional and personal development as engineers. Serving customers with disabilities in particular helps our students get outside the classroom and outside of their own perspectives in order to solve a real world problem that will make a big difference in someone's life. “

Added Heidi Morano, SEED project engineer: “The value of customer engagement is two-fold; first, the ability to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is a critical skill for engineers in this day and age. Secondly, that the student teams are able to see directly the impact that their design can have on someone’s life really seems to resonate and leaves a lasting impression.”

SourceAmerica, a national nonprofit with a mission to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities, hosts the Design Challenge annually. The contest is designed to bring greater awareness of the need and the impact of assistive technology in the workplace and encourage upcoming generations to develop an inclusive mindset.

Pellerito said her hope is that more can be done to help millions of disabled Americans find jobs. Only 17.9 percent of Americans with disabilities were employed in 2016, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to 65.3 percent of Americans without disabilities. She also said she hopes more colleges and universities can be convinced to compete in the SourceAmerica Design Challenge.

More on the competition at http://www.sourceamerica.org/design-challenge. Stories about individual finalists’ projects may be found at http://www.sourceamerica.org/news.

Oakland County taking steps to retool its mobility workforce

There’s nothing like a challenge to get Oakland County fired up.

The challenge came in the form of a 2017 Connected Mobility Skills Needs Assessment conducted by Oakland County and the Michigan Talent Investment Agency.

The report said that if Oakland County is going to remain competitive in the coming connected mobility revolution, it needs to do a better job of developing and attracting a workforce with the right balance of engineering skills and automotive knowledge.

So local colleges and business groups are rising to meet the goal, by using this report to make improvements or changes to curricula.

Jennifer Llewellyn, manager of Oakland County Workforce Development, says the report surveyed 50 area employers that serve the connected mobility industry, asking them what knowledge, abilities, and skills they look for in potential hires. The report was presented to educational institutions, professional organizations, and business groups around the region.

"Our goal is to ensure Oakland County’s talent pool has the required knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to meet employer demand," Llewellyn says.

The assessment, the fourth in a series of surveys in emerging technology sectors since 2009, is frank in its conclusion that eight major areas need to be addressed before Oakland County can compete with other regions in developing a mobility workforce.

The top area of concern is an "insufficient pipeline of qualified workers." There's not enough local talent with advanced degrees, and those who do, lack experience in the automotive field. This leaves many local companies with no choice but to try to poach workers from other regions. The problem is that Southeast Michigan is still perceived as a region with an outdated manufacturing base, making it harder to compete with other metropolitan areas.

Other problems identified by the survey include educational institutions offering outdated engineering degrees, visa restrictions, deficient connected mobility training programs, and a general antiquated perception of the automotive industry.

The report, while frank in its conclusions, is being used by local institutions to make improvements.

"Oakland University used the data to help shape the curriculum for their Master’s in Systems Engineering," Llewellyn says. "Other entities are reviewing the report and using it to shape future curriculum in the connected mobility space."

Krytronx in Novi to distribute $100M in free smart sensors for manufacturing industry

Excerpt: 

Krytronx in Novi and its iToolTag platform, which wirelessly tracks sensors placed on manufacturing tools, industrial equipment, vehicles, and other components, announced it will invest $100 million to provide free worldwide installation of its blockchain-based iOT (Internet of Things) asset tag product line.

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IoT TechConnect conference in Troy to increase awareness of opportunities, threats posed by Internet

Excerpt

The Internet of Things (IoT) TechConnect conference, to be held on April 4 at the Troy Marriott, will provide attendees with a greater understanding of the opportunities and threats posed by IoT. As more devices connect to the internet, there are more opportunities for hackers to get into computer systems. The event will focus on IoT companies, experts, and training in Michigan.

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LTU hosts game development marathon

Excerpt

About 30 software coders, artists and others with an interest in game development spent the weekend at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield during the second annual Game Jam on campus.

The event was part of Global Game Jam, a worldwide celebration of art and creativity in game development.

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Tech248 update: ORBBEC builds 3D cameras for VR, AR, 3D printing, AI and more

Excerpt

Virtual and Augmented reality are becoming the hot new technologies on the scene. Troy-based ORBBEC makes computer-controlled 3D cameras that can see, hear and respond to people and their environments with unprecedented accuracy fitting in nicely with this trend. ORBBEC is the featured company in this Tech248 update.

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Michigan universities push ahead on autonomous vehicles

Excerpt: 

On the small campus of Lawrence Technological University, a few students are on the cusp of programming one of the nation’s first autonomous vehicles as a class project.

Already, the two-seat electric vehicle — the size of a golf cart — won an international competition last spring for the software the students developed, taking first place in a new division of the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition at Oakland University.

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Beaumont Health tests Michigan's first 3D whole breast ultrasound for cancer detection

Excerpt

Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn is one of eight centers nationwide participating in research to improve the detection of breast cancer in women by using SoftVue three-dimensional ultrasound technology on women with dense breast tissue.

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Farmington Hills-based S2 Equipment creates Solar Briefcase and PowerPack for remote energy apps

Excerpt

S2 Equipment in Farmington Hills, which operates The Invention Shop, announced the debut of the Hans PowerPack and the Solar BriefCase 60, which can charge mobile devices during a power outage or provide electrical power during a trip off the grid, at a tailgate party, or at other events.

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212 Research + Innovation Articles | Page: | Show All
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