University of Minnesota: UMN Celebrates 200th Startup Company and Top Ranking for Technology Transfer

The University of Minnesota today announced that it has launched 200 startup companies since 2006, a significant milestone in its work to scale and commercialize ideas and inventions from labs and research facilities on its five campuses. The announcement coincided with a report released this week by the group Heartland Forward that ranked the University of Minnesota Twin Cities first for technology transfer within the heartland, a 20-state region, and fifth among all U.S. public universities.

“We are extremely proud of this 200th company milestone,” said University President Joan Gabel. “The University is the state’s single largest creator of startups, with nearly three out of four U of M startup companies located in Minnesota. The Heartland Forward ranking, which looks at startup creation, STEM degrees and other tech transfer metrics, reflects the deliberate work we’ve done to integrate entrepreneurialism and successful tech commercialization practices into our work as a leading research university.”

These startups, which commercialize University of Minnesota ideas and inventions, have an impressive rate of success, with nearly 80 percent still active today and with 10 companies either acquired or having gone public since 2017. The University spun out a record 20 startup companies in FY 2021 alone.

The 200th startup is Knine Biotech, which is using artificial intelligence for early cancer detection in dogs. Knine is based on research by Jaime Modiano, professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine; Taylor Depauw, a former researcher in the Modiano lab and current Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology program; and Ali Khammanivong, a researcher and data scientist at the Masonic Cancer Center. Like most of the University’s startups, Knine Biotech’s innovation relies on access to cutting edge ideas in research, in this case in cancer biology and data science, available only at a major research university.

“We’ve learned a lot over time about how to help leading researchers develop new business ideas, and we’ve built a strong network of hundreds of dedicated experts and advisers who know many different industries,” said Russ Straate, director of the University’s Venture Center. The Venture Center is the part of the University’s Technology Commercialization team focused on startups. “We’re pleased to be launching more companies more quickly; startups 101-200 were launched in five years—less than half the time that it took to launch startups 1-100. We’re also sharing our knowledge and connections beyond the University by working with grantees of the state’s Launch Minnesota program.”

“University tech transfer is at the center of technology-based economic development and innovation,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward, which characterizes itself as a nonpartisan think-and-do tank. “We believe the University of Minnesota offers a great example for other institutions looking to improve their technology commercialization enterprise. They have a technology transfer team with a great deal of industry experience in the areas where the University is generating new discoveries and ideas, and that has been groundbreaking in its approach to working with outside companies.”

The report singled out the University’s Minnesota Innovation Partnerships program, which provides low-risk opportunities for companies to license U of M technology and sponsor research, as well as entrepreneurial resources available to students, faculty and staff. The University’s Discovery Launchpad incubator and the Discovery Capital seed funding program for startups were also recognized for their work.

“Research and technology transfer are fundamental to the University’s mission and are key drivers of collaboration and economic growth in Minnesota and our region, and Heartland Forward’s Research to Renewal report has some great recommendations for policymakers and higher ed leaders who want to maximize the impact of tech transfer, in Minnesota and beyond,” said Interim Vice President for Research Michael Oakes. “This 200th startup milestone and recognition from Heartland Forward reflects our commitment to research excellence and innovation. We couldn’t be more proud to be ‘Driven to Discover.’”

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