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Wayne State University makes $6.6 million investment in Detroit

WSU will transform NextEnergy Center into Industry Innovation Center

Light pole flags for Wayne State University in Detroit's Midtown. (WDIV)
Light pole flags for Wayne State University in Detroit's Midtown. (WDIV)

DETROIT – Wayne State University announced on Monday a $6.6 million investment in Detroit Urban Solutions, a technology innovation consortium dedicated to developing solutions to challenges facing Detroit and other urban areas.

The partnership between Wayne State, TechTown Detroit and NextEnergy, along with many other organizations, will focus on smart cities technologies, including mobility, energy, digital health and civic technologies.

With the purchase of the NextEnergy Center, the university plans to convert the building into the Wayne State Industry Innovation Center (I2C). This building will be used for university and industry collaboration and research, with a focus on cyber physical systems including cybersecurity, connected and autonomous vehicles, and smart city technologies.

"A focus area in Wayne State's five-year strategic plan is that the university will become a hub of innovation. This is strong action toward that goal," said WSU President M. Roy Wilson.

Detroit Urban Solutions is a product of the Detroit Innovation District working group, which convened in 2014 by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. 

"Detroit Urban Solutions will create and commercialize new ideas and support our regional economy -- creating jobs that leverage Southeast Michigan's unique attributes and expertise in mobility, digital health and more," Duggan stated.   

NextEnergy will remain in the TechTown district as a Detroit Urban Solutions partner, leading the mobility and energy initiatives. 

"We are excited about the opportunity be part of a focused epicenter for innovation. This partnership provides additional opportunities to leverage our global reach to attract new talent and business ventures to the region to accelerate and deploy solutions that create smarter, cleaner and more accessible communities and cities," said Jim Saber, president and CEO of NextEnergy. 

The consortium is designed to advance innovation efforts in Detroit and across the region.

"The volume of tech innovation in metro Detroit and on the Wayne State campus, especially around mobility, health tech, cybersecurity and IoT, has been one of our region's best-kept secrets. These efforts will coalesce in Detroit Urban Solutions. I assure you, the next Amazon will take notice," said Ned Staebler, Wayne State's vice president for economic development and CEO of TechTown.

The WSU Industry Innovation Center will utilize 45,000 square feet of office, laboratory and event and demonstration space as a location for university faculty, researchers and students to co-locate with industry to work on a variety of projects.

NextEnergy will continue to utilize the I2C assets as part of its demonstration and deployment programs, and convening work. Wayne State's College of Engineering will have a significant presence in the building.

"This facility gives our researchers and students a huge competitive advantage by allowing them to engage directly with industry partners, potential employers and strategic investors,"  said Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the Wayne State College of Engineering. 

Further programming details and launch events for the Wayne State Industry Innovation Center are planned for fall 2018.