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Notice – Call for grant submissions from the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) AgBio Innovation Hub

Call for grant submissions from the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) AgBio Innovation Hub

Joseph A. Affholter, Ph.D.
Commercialization Program Director
MTRAC AgBio Innovation Hub
MSU Technologies

Office: 517-884-1824
Email: jaffholt@msu.edu


The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) AgBio Innovation Hub is based here at MSU and jointly funded by MSU and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Its purpose is to foster the development and commercialization of technologies with potentially high impact on the food, crop and animal production and industrial (i.e. nonmedical) life science (AgBio) industries. We currently have an open Starter Grant RFP (proposals due Sep 14) and a new risk assessment competition in which researchers across the state compete for prizes from $1,000 to $10,000 (concept papers due Aug 21). I am introducing this program to to draw your attention specifically to the new competition, referred to as the “AgBio Innovation Challenge”, which I believe may be of interest to some of your faculty.

We would love to see some submissions from College of Natural Science (CNS) in the Innovation Challenge and our upcoming grant application cycles. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you would like to further discuss the MTRAC program or the upcoming Innovation Challenge or RFPs. My contact information is posted above. Weian Ou (ouweian@msu.edu) is the MTRAC Program Manager, and either of us are available to answer questions, or even provide a web-based introduction to the MTRAC program, in general, or to the Innovation Challenge.

The Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for those working on technologies that are or “might be” relevant to solving important AgBio problems to compete for prize money and recognition. It is easy to enter and does not require matching funds. Investigators compete by writing a 3-page concept paper in which they describe an emerging technology on which they are working (or deeply knowledgeable) and a high-value application in the AgBio industry to which they believe they can apply the technology. The papers do not ask the investigator to describe “how” they would solve the problem but “why” they believe their technology is suitable for solving it. The product concepts should be original. In addition to being awarded recognition and prizes, authors of high scoring papers also may be invited to submit an MTRAC Starter (or Full) grant proposal in an upcoming RFP cycle. Full details of the Innovation Challenge can be found at:


Historically, the MTRAC AgBio Innovation Hub has offered two categories of translational research grants (Starter and Full) for AgBio researchers at Michigan’s public universities and other research institutions. These focus on the development of early stage prototypes related to protectable (e.g. patentable) innovations and require both matching funds and the existence of an active intellectual property portfolio for the subject technology. In contrast, the Innovation Challenge is a risk-assessment competition in which researchers compete for award dollars based on their original concept of applying their technology to a substantive AgBio problem or opportunity. These are not research grants and do not require institutional matching funds. As such, we believe they may be of interest to some of your applications-focused researchers. The prizes will typically be awarded to competitors’ institutional research accounts.

Increasingly, the linkages between health sciences, sustainability, machine learning, precision systems, natural product chemistry, environmental science, molecular genetics and metabolic engineering are seen as major themes driving the future of agriculture and biology-based industries. So, it may be that there are researchers in the CNS who are working on concepts with high relevance to the AgBio industries, but who have not yet explored those applications. It would be particularly interesting to identify any researchers in that category and invite them to identify the key linkages between their current work and applications in the agriculture and biology related industries.  The AgBio Innovation Challenge provides a unique opportunity for them to do so and be recognized for it.