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University of Minnesota startups launched from federally funded research lauded as examples of American innovation and economic growth

‘Sparking Economic Growth 2.0’ shows basic research fueling progress, jobs and growth

October 29, 2013

A pair of startups launched from federally funded University of Minnesota research are highlighted in a national report by The Science Coalition as premier examples of bringing transformational innovations to market, creating new jobs and contributing to economic growth.

"Sparking Economic Growth 2.0: Companies Created from Federally Funded Research, Fueling American Innovation and Economic Growth" honors University of Minnesota licensees Steady State Imaging, LLC (based out of Minneapolis and since purchased by GE Healthcare) and Heat Mining Company, LLC (located in Rapid City, S.D.).

The report recognizes 100 national companies that trace their roots to federally funded university research, while showcasing their critical impact on the U.S. economy and innovation culture. Future growth, however, is imperiled by a current funding environment that stands to stifle basic research, the report argues.

"This report echoes the concerns voiced by the scientific and educational community across the U.S.," said Brian Herman, the University’s vice president for research. "We are on a dangerous trajectory of declining federal disinvestment in basic research that, if not reversed, could have a chilling effect on our collective ability to advance important discoveries, fuel economic development and compete internationally. As we see in these data and examples, basic research is an essential driver of innovation, and continued federal investment is critical for the future growth and health of our local communities and our society at large."

Federal funding for research and development has been on a downward trend for the past decade, reaching historic lows in 2013. The automatic budget cuts imposed in March 2013, and set to run through 2021 as part of the federal sequester, could potentially jeopardize research that often requires sustained funding over many years.

Steady State Imaging, LLC and Heat Mining Company, LLC are both examples of the significant return on investment of federal funding. Launched in 2005, Steady State Imaging (SSI) was spawned from research by professor Michael Garwood and associate professor Lenore Everson of the University’s diagnostic radiology department. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Garwood, Everson and others at the U’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMMR) devised a technique to simultaneously expand the reach of MRI imaging and reduce the reliance on "older" technology that exposes patients to ionizing radiation (X-rays). The resulting discovery, SWIFT (Sweep Imaging with Fourier Transformation), has proven especially valuable for pediatric MRI imaging and led GE Healthcare to purchase SSI in 2011.

Heat Mining Company’s (HMC) proprietary technology, known as carbon dioxide plume geothermal (CPG), stands at the convergence of the practical need to burn fossil fuels to generate the fast majority of the world’s energy needs and the growing concern over the emission of carbon dioxide as the primary driver of global warning. CPG, which generates power with a "two-for-one" climate benefit, is the breakthrough of Earth Sciences professor Martin Saar in the University’s College of Science and Engineering, along with postdoctoral fellow Jimmy Randolph. The pair was initially funded through the U’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, before receiving federal backing through the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation’s Sustainable Energy Pathways program. HMC was founded in 2012.

"We are extremely pleased to see these two successful U of M companies featured in the Coalition’s report," said Jay Schrankler, executive director of the University’s Office for Technology Commercialization. "Heat Mining and Steady State Imaging grew out of promising research that was only possible with significant federal investments. Ultimately, those investments paid off, leading to inventions that address very real societal challenges and at the same time, create significant economic impact that will help grow our economy." 

University of Minnesota technologies were used to launch a record 14 startup companies in fiscal year 2013. Since the Office for Technology Commercialization’s Venture Center was formed in 2006, a total of 52 startup companies have been created. Of that number, 41, or nearly 80 percent, of the companies are still active—a very high success rate considering a 2012 study by Harvard Business School’s Shikhar Ghosh showing that 75 percent of all startups fail.

About The Science Coalition
The Science Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of more than 50 of the nation’s leading public and private research universities, including the University of Minnesota. It is dedicated to sustaining the federal government’s investment in basic research as a means to stimulate the economy, spur innovation and drive America’s global competitiveness. Learn more at www.sciencecoalition.org.

About the Office for Technology Commercialization
The mission of the OTC is to facilitate the transfer of University of Minnesota research to licensees for the development of new products and services that benefit the public good, foster economic growth and generate revenue to support the University’s research and education mission.

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