Opinion: Michigan must continue to support talent development

Fred Molnar

Over the past several years, Governor Snyder has called for strengthening the talent pool in Michigan. To assist with the state’s ongoing need for talent, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation initiative supports programs matching high-level talent with entrepreneurs, university researchers and venture capitalists within its entrepreneurial ecosystem.

For entrepreneurs, having a great mentor often means the difference between navigating through the period from ideation to commercialization. MicroMentor, an online mentorship consultancy, found that small- and medium-sized businesses with mentor programs experienced an 83 percent growth in revenue. The impact mentors can have on startup companies is a primary reason why Michigan has developed mentor programs to cultivate the state’s talent.

Pairing entrepreneurs within our public universities with industry mentors through Tech Transfer Talent Network, a mentor program, has been key in getting technologies out of the lab and into the commercial market. This allows researchers to foster an entrepreneurial mindset and tailor their research and technology to match the needs of its commercial potential.

Impacting how researchers develop technology, mentor Meera Vijan relies on her 30-year expertise in the advanced battery and flat panel display industry to provide market and customer input to university postdoctoral researchers on what is needed in the industry. Then, post-docs can utilize mentor support, customer discovery and industry contacts provided by Vijan to open opportunities in the market.

When a researcher brings a concept out of the university to the startup phase, they need employees to further their mission. By connecting coders and software developers with early-stage companies through a fellowship program, the developer receives an opportunity to learn from a mentor, while the startup receives access to talent needed to help grow their business.

Cultivating mentor relationships and providing work experience is how we can ensure our startup companies and entrepreneurs achieve long-term growth that will benefit our state.

Fred Molnar is vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corp