MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation

The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation is a statewide program that funds translational research applications in advanced transportation materials, robotics and autonomy, sensors, electric vehicle drivetrain/propulsion, software/controls/data, and advanced manufacturing processes. The mission of this program is to advance transportation technologies that address poorly met market needs. Since 2013, U-M housed the MTRAC Advanced Transportation program and accelerated the commercial development of mobility projects. The program expanded to a statewide innovation hub in 2016, and joins a series of specialized statewide commercialization programs with in-depth domain expertise in specific areas of research. The MTRAC Advanced Transportation Innovation Hub program is open to all institutions of higher education, hospital systems, and non-profit research centers in the State of Michigan.

This hub is run jointly by the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship and the U-M Office of Tech Transfer, in partnership with Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The program reinforces the commitment of the State of Michigan’s Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF), the MEDC and U-M, to use entrepreneurship as a dynamic catalyst for economic growth to drive the impact of innovation in the State, the Nation and global economy.

NOTE: In addition to applying for MTRAC Transportation funding, researchers may also apply to other MTRAC Innovation Hubs in Michigan: 

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  • March 20, 2017 – Semi-Finalists notified
  • April 21-28, 2017 – Board Proposal Review
  • May 2, 2017 – MTRAC Finalists notified
  • June 9, 2017 – Finalists present to board (in-person attendance required)
  • June 20, 2017 – Awardees notified
  • August 1, 2017 – July 31, 2018 – Funding Period


U-M CFE will be offering entrepreneurial training sessions during the proposal selection process designed to improve the project design and presentation. The intent of these training opportunities is to assist faculty researchers in understanding the nuances that make commercialization efforts different from other research projects they have been involved with. Participation in I-Corps customer discovery training has proven to increase by 3X likelihood of an MTRAC award. The National Science Foundation has documented similar results for I-Corps participation in award success in their SBIR/STTR programs. Truly understanding customer discovery increases the probability of ultimate commercial success. The I-Corps training for MTRAC delivers similar skills in a compressed timeframe.

  • March 30, 2017 | 1:00-5:00PM | Introduction to Customer Discovery Kickoff
    This four hour session will kick off a three week exposure to the process of customer discovery to determine real customer needs, framing a value proposition and understanding the business ecosystem that will affect commercial development of a technology. A wrap up session will take place at 1:00-5:00PM on April 21.
  • April 4-6 2017 | SAE World Congress and Exhibition (recommended conference)
  • May 9 | Time TBA | Presentation Delivery & Storytelling
  • May 21 | Introduction to Customer Discovery Kickoff | 1:00-5:00PM
  • May 22 | 9:00-12:00PM | Project Planning & Milestones
  • May 30, 2017 | Time TBA | Practice Pitch to the SBDC


Funding focuses on advanced materials, robotics and autonomy, sensors, electric vehicle drivetrain/propulsion, software/controls/data, and advanced manufacturing processes. Projects with limited commercial applications are outside the mission of the program.


View past awardees HERE.


What kind of projects will be funded?
The MTRAC Advanced Transportation Innovation Hub  is focused on commercializing technologies related to advanced transportation. The projects should include unique intellectual property as evidenced by an invention disclosure on file with the university’s office of Tech Transfer. A key element in the project selection is demonstration that the technology has the potential to fulfill an unmet need in the market of commercial significance. PI’s should be able to clearly describe a path to commercialization.

Who will determine what projects are funded?
The MTRAC Transportation Oversight Committee assists in project selection, awards, mentoring and oversight. The committee is comprised of  advanced transportation business and market experts, venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs.

What further role will the MTRAC Transportation Oversight Committee play?
In addition to reviewing and selecting proposal awards, members of the MTRAC Transportation Oversight Committee and their network of colleagues will serve as an informal mentorship role to research teams as their projects progress.

What is the process for submitting proposals?
The call for proposals begins annually in early January and are typically due in mid-March. Applications are then reviewed by the Oversight Committee with oral presentations scheduled for early June. Awards are announced within a few days and projects commencing in the July/August timeframe.

What are the selection criteria?
Each proposal will be evaluated on the combination of IP, market and commercialization potential, scientific merit, potential impact on the transportation industry, and the willingness of the PI to engage in commercialization activities. After review and scoring by the Oversight Committee, researchers will then be invited to an oral presentation. Presentations will then be scored and awards made to the project with the highest commercial potential. All presenters will be given feedback for use in future applications.





Eric Petersen

Program Director






Jane Sugiyama

Program Coordinator



The MTRAC Transportation Oversight Committee assists in project selection, mentoring and oversight. The committee is comprised of advanced transportation business and market experts, venture capitalists and U-M leaders.




Volker Sick,  University of Michigan







Rajeesh K. Malhan, Denso







Patti Glaza,  Invest Detroit







Alan Amici, TE Connectivity







Alain Piette, MI-SBDC







Sara Blackmer, RAVE Computer








Brett Hinds, Ford Motor Company








Tony Grover, RPM Ventures




Not pictured

Ken Nisbet,  University of Michigan

Adrian Fortino, Mercury Fund

Hamid Servati,  ServoTech Engineering

Marcia Hatch, Gunderson Dettmer

Gary Smyth, General Motors

Scott Jorgensen, General Motors

Michael Barry, BASF