U of M considers startup funds

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MHTA – At its final regular meetings of 2012, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents will discuss a proposal to create venture capital funds to jump start university and other business ventures. Regents will also review revisions to faculty leave policies in order to encourage faculty to participate in entrepreneurial start-up companies, or otherwise engage with for or non-profit organizations.

The topics will be among a variety of agenda items about the university’s ongoing work to strengthen business partnerships and encourage technology and research commercialization.

University President Eric Kaler discussed the venture capital plan with healthcare entrepreneurs and investors this week at the Mid America Healthcare Venture Forum in Minneapolis. Under the plan, modeled after the University of Illinois’ venture capital fund, the university’s Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) will seek $2 million annually in seed money for early-stage university start-ups to undertake proof of concept development. OTC will also work to develop a venture capital fund of $50 million for supporting start-ups that “graduate” from the seed fund and require further investment.

In addition to discussing the new venture capital proposals, Tim Mulcahy, the vice president for research who will retire Dec. 31, will provide a report on the accomplishments and challenges of the university’s research enterprise during the last fiscal year, and since his arrival in 2005.

The board will take action on the appointment of Mulcahy’s successor, Dr. Brian Herman, during Friday’s full board meeting. Herman, coming from the University of Texas at San Antonio, will begin work Jan. 2 and will be formally introduced to the board at its February meeting.

Finally, regents are expected to act on the proposed entrepreneurial leave policy to support faculty in commercializing intellectual property or pursuing other private sector development opportunities.

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