University President Mary Sue Coleman announced two new major initiatives aimed at strengthening the University as it moves toward its bicentennial in her annual address to campus yesterday morning.
Speaking from the Colloquium of the Ross School of Business, Coleman told the audience of mostly University administrators that the University will launch a new program, Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups, which will invest up to $25 million in University startup businesses over the next decade.
Through the MINTS program, the University will provide up to $500,000 to any faculty member whose startup business has already secured an initial source of capital. Coleman said the University is making a “passive investment” because it won’t pick winners and losers. Rather, it will provide funding to any startup that meets the eligibility criteria.
Funding for MINTS will come from the University endowment. Coleman said the new investments will allow the University to add some variation to its investment portfolio.
“Now I want to be clear: This is not a new expense on the part of the University,” Coleman said. “Rather, we are diversifying our assets.”
Coleman said University officials looked at investments that could have been made in the last 20 years and decided the endeavor would be advantageous. She said one of the best aspects of the new initiative is that it will generate economic activity in Michigan.
“We are helping to accelerate businesses that improve the Michigan economy,” Coleman said.
Timothy Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said in a question-and-answer session after Coleman’s speech that the University is making a smart choice by investing in startups, and it may choose to invest more in certain companies in the future.
“We’re excited about it. It’s a little bit different than what we typically do,” Slottow said. “It adds more diversification, and we’re long-term investors so we’re willing to stick with them for as long as it takes.”
After the event, Coleman told the press that though the program is exclusively supporting faculty startups, it could eventually expand to aid student businesses. However, the student startups would have to meet the same requirements as faculty startups.
With an eye toward the University’s bicentennial in 2017, Coleman also announced the formation of the Third Century Initiative. The $50 million program is tasked with developing multidisciplinary approaches to solving problems associated with climate change, poverty and other societal problems.
Coleman said the initiative will focus specifically on “immersive learning experiences” for undergraduate students, like studying abroad or developing innovative projects in the United States. The initiative will also focus on “grand challenge problems,” with students from different disciplines collaborating to find a solution. She gave an example of Engineering and Medical students working together to examine a body after a car crash to better understand vehicle safety.
“It’s the multidisciplinary approach,” Coleman said. “It’s getting everyone who has to do with any part of the problem to see the whole problem and not just their little piece.”
Coleman said it was named the Third Century Initiative because she and University Provost Philip Hanlon, who assisted in the program’s development, want to move the University forward into its third century as a public institution. Hanlon
“(The initiative is called) Third Century because we believe the teaching, research and service that grow out of this initiative will propel the University into its next 100 years with enormous momentum,” Coleman said. “It will secure Michigan’s future position as the world’s leading public research university.”
The Third Century Initiative will be financed through existing University resources, as funds from various schools and colleges have been reallocated for the initiative.
The Third Century Initiative is intended to fund the activities University faculty and students are increasingly engaging in — such as undergraduate research, study abroad and entrepreneurial work — Hanlon said.
“What the Third Century Initiative is really all about is, again, taking the best ideas that are emerging from campus and trying to advance them and accelerate them,” he said.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after Coleman’s address, Hanlon said the new initiatives are meant to usher the University into its bicentennial in six years.
“We want to really generate a lot of excitement, spur a lot of creativity, spur a lot of innovation on this campus by the whole community, students, faculty,” Hanlon said. “Students can have a lot of great ideas here too, and what we want to do is really hit the bicentennial with a lot of forward momentum.”
— Daily News Editors Caitlin Huston and Joseph Lichterman contributed to this report.