Invent@NMU and Innovate Marquette SmartZone held a “relaunch” open house Friday to celebrate the recent collaboration between the two organizations. Representatives highlighted their expanded entrepreneurial support services and new online client outreach capability to be powered by NMU’s broadband Educational Access Network (EAN). The event featured a screening of the new promotional video, a look at the student-designed logo, a demonstration of the new remote client-access kiosk and client/student success stories.
Inventors and entrepreneurs can walk up to the kiosk, learn about the services offered, submit an idea and receive a response within 72 hours.
Last June, NMU received a $1.15 million grant payable over three years from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to implement a collaborative operating agreement involving Invent@NMU and the Innovate Marquette SmartZone. Both entities had developed distinct approaches toward the common goal of promoting regional economic development. The grant-funded partnership enables them to continue that work collectively and more efficiently from one location (the corner of Fair and Presque Isle Avenues), enhancing the services provided to inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs.
“This is a unique community and campus collaboration,” said Ray Johnson, CEO of Innovate Marquette SmartZone. “People are looking for help, whether it’s with low-, high- or no-tech products and services. They can bring an idea from the back of a napkin to market, gaining expertise from professionals and student employees along the way. And students get valuable practical experience. Our message is this: If you have an idea, this is the one-stop place to come. Our motto is think big, start small.”
Invent@NMU gives students real-world experience helping clients bring physical products from concept to market. Under the guidance of professional mentors, students develop competitive skill sets related to design, manufacturing and marketing and provide this expertise to a variety of client ideas. The Innovate Marquette SmartZone has cultivated an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports the accelerated creation and growth of technology-based businesses in Marquette. It offers a broad array of services, training, mentoring and networking programs for tech-based start-up ideas and new business creation.
“It’s been excellent,” said Rachel Barra of Invent@NMU about the collaboration. “With the two organizations joining forces, clients are better able to receive help. It’s also a great opportunity for our students. They get to work alongside full-time professionals, which creates a wider network for mentoring, and they’re exposed to a wider variety of product and service ideas that come in.”
One example of a client success story highlighted at the open house is Patagium Sup Sails. Cathe Hahn, a lifelong sail maker, imagined a way to put a twist on the stand-up paddleboard craze by creating a sail that allows enthusiasts to gently glide across the water. She named her company Patagium after the membrane of the Australian marsupial called the Sugarglider. Her featured product is also called the Sugarglider, mimicking the gliding ability of the animal.