Selected Speeches

UM Ventures 2.0

December 7, 2017
Lion Bros. Building, UM BioPark

Good morning. I’m Jay Perman, president of UMB, and the first thing I want to do is welcome you to this gorgeous, historic building—the newest addition to our BioPark. We don’t have anything like it at the University.

I’ll admit it: UMB is a little buttoned-up. We’re a little staid. We can’t help it. We’re home to professional schools. But this Lion Bros. Building isn’t buttoned up. This is home to co-working spaces and collaboration bars and a cool café. You can run your company off your phone here.

This is truly a community space, where students, faculty, staff, alumni, and entrepreneurs—inside and outside the University and the University System—can work shoulder-to-shoulder on the next big thing … or the next small thing that can make a big difference.

Years ago, this building was home to one of the world’s largest embroidery companies. You walked by one of the old sewing tables when you came in. It was empty for nearly 15 years, and I can’t imagine a better way to fill it. Congratulations to Cross Street Partners and Bill Struever for making this historic building into something that can boast not only a legendary past but a really exciting future.

UM Strategic Partnership

We’re here today because nearly two years ago, the Maryland General Assembly saw the amazing partnership that was growing and deepening between UMB and the University of Maryland, College Park. And they wanted to strengthen it and formalize it—and, happily, they wanted to help finance it.

A lot of the initiatives we’ll be talking about today are possible because of the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership Act. I’m grateful to the legislature for its vision, to the USM Board of Regents and to Chancellor Robert Caret for their leadership, and as always, to my friend, my partner—my other half—Dr. Wallace Loh.

I also have to acknowledge generous support from the state, and I thank Deputy Secretary of Commerce Benjamin Wu for joining us today.

And finally, the City of Baltimore has been our partner in the BioPark from the very beginning, and I’m delighted that we’re working with Mayor Catherine Pugh to bring economic opportunity and development to West Baltimore. Representing the Baltimore City Council, we’re thrilled to have Councilman John Bullock with us today. 

UM Ventures: History and Success

I think Dr. Loh would agree that one of the signature successes of our Partnership has been UM Ventures, a joint tech-transfer operation that’s developing hundreds of university discoveries and inventions.

In the last five years of UM Ventures, the number of technologies we license each year to commercial partners has doubled, and the number of startups we’ve launched has tripled. These startups aren’t vanity projects. They’re serious companies raising serious money—and moving complicated medical technologies to market.

In the last several months, we’ve celebrated Philips’ acquisition of health IT company Analytical Informatics and Lentigen’s acquisition of Living Pharma, a cancer immunology startup. These sales have kept jobs in Maryland, they’ve infused significant new capital in commercialization, and they promise to dramatically improve patient and community health. This is the incredible power of UM Ventures.

And today we’re doubling down with UM Ventures 2.0.

UM Ventures 2.0

I think it’s fitting that the first component of our 2.0 rollout is education. We learn a lot from our students here at UMB. And over the last few years, we’ve learned that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at the University, but students didn’t have the mechanisms and opportunities to connect with one another, to collaborate, and to create.

They told us what student innovation should look like at UMB. And that’s what we now call “The Grid.” Technically, it stands for Graduate Research Innovation District—but “GRID” is what we want you to remember.

Because a Grid is a way to connect. It’s a way to connect people who are designing solutions to the problems we keep calling “inevitable.” It’s a way to connect ideas that spark off one another. It’s a way to connect our institutions—because this is truly a Systemwide space, and everyone in the System will make it what it’s meant to be.

Rank and title don’t matter here. It’s the ideas that count—that’s the currency of entrepreneurship.

We’re launching a degree program in Health and Social Innovation, where students will use business and design-thinking to effect change—whether that’s through technology or policy; whether it’s through their own startups or within existing organizations. They’ll be able to iterate and test their innovations, and connect with Baltimore’s community of entrepreneurs to take their ideas all the way to impact.

Students have always been a vital part of our BioPark. I want to acknowledge UMBC’s digital arts students—whose studio space is just across the lobby—along with College Park’s Smith School of Business and Baltimore City Community College, with space in our BioPark buildings a couple of blocks away. I thank our President’s Entrepreneurial Fellows for shaping our vision of student innovation.

Finally, I thank the Graduate School and The Grid’s Faculty Executive Director Jenny Owens, who’s done an incredible job putting this program together. Dr. Owens’s office is right in this space, and I know she’d be thrilled to talk you through the vision and the opportunities to come.

Tech Startups

While the University System is central to UM Ventures 2.0, the community we’re serving with this innovation district is far broader than that. We’re also serving a city that’s one of the best-kept secrets in America’s innovation scene. We have some world-class technologies here in Baltimore, and we’re creating more flexible, affordable spaces to develop them.

What we need to grow is an experienced talent pool that will anchor our companies right here in Baltimore. We need a pool of angel investors who understand the types of technologies being commercialized here.

So UMB has teamed up with Johns Hopkins University, the University System of Maryland, and Betamore @ City Garage to create what we’re calling Anchor Ventures. This is our bid to strengthen a citywide cluster of entrepreneurs, startups, and investors who know what they’re doing. We’ll help startups raise money, draft good business plans, and hire top talent. We’ll connect Baltimore’s tech companies to its academic innovators, and develop that entrepreneurial culture that every city wants—a culture of smart risk and steep rewards. We need to give Baltimore every advantage so that the people who go to school here and start companies here actually stay here.

I thank TEDCO for supporting this initiative, and I thank all of our partners in Anchor Ventures for really caring about Baltimore’s entrepreneurial future.

Working hand-in-glove with Anchor Ventures is the Baltimore Fund, providing subsidies to startups that locate in Baltimore City, and building this urban culture of entrepreneurship. The companies can be affiliated with any System institution—along with Morgan State and St. Mary’s College.

The Baltimore Fund was written into the Strategic Partnership, as was the funding that seeded it. It’s a huge vote of confidence in Baltimore—and the kind of smart investment that a city like ours needs.

Baltimore is filled with makers and doers and creators. That’s the community we want to tap into. That’s the community we want to enlarge.

I mentioned earlier that a couple of our startups were recently acquired by well-known companies. I want to mention one more.

Just last night, Harpoon Medical announced that it’s been acquired by Edwards Life Sciences, following successful clinical trials for its mitral valve-repair device. It’s an acquisition that will keep money and jobs here in Baltimore—and it’ll transform the care we deliver to cardiac patients. 

UMB and our colleagues in College Park have a terrific track record with medical devices like Harpoon’s, but we can do even more to get these devices made. To tell you about our plans, I’ll turn it over to my friend and partner, Dr. Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park.

The Southwest Baltimore Community

Before I close out our program, I want to mention one more constituent of UM Ventures 2.0. And that’s the community of Southwest Baltimore.  

We wanted to move deeper into this community. We wanted our space and our services to be inclusive of the neighbors who already partner with us in so many initiatives. We wanted them to know that this is their home for entrepreneurship, too.

And so our neighbors can take advantage of the same resources that our own students and employees do—like the Small Business Development Center that’s here on-site. It’s run by Bill Freeman, who’s with us today. Thank you, Bill.

Neighbors can get counseling from the Carey School of Law’s IP and Entrepreneurship Clinic, which is run by Prof. Patricia Campbell. Thank you, Patty.

We’ll be working with the Southwest Partnership on a business engagement plan for local companies, so they can get the most out of our services. I thank Michael Seipp for partnering with us on that.

We have a lot of nonprofit and for-profit developers here today—Enterprise Homes, Cross Street Partners, Warhorse, Wexford—who are themselves working on aggressive investment and revitalization.

There’s an energy in this community that’s undeniable. Because we are makers. We are doers. We are hopeful, and we are driven—two traits every entrepreneur has to have.

As I segue to the food portion of the program, I want to introduce Sylva Lin, who owns the Culinary Architecture Café here in the building. Ms. Lin also has a thriving storefront on Washington Blvd., in the heart of Pigtown.

We first met Sylva through our local purchasing program, which we developed a few years ago, and, since then, she’s gotten some consultation services through the Small Business Development Center. Sylva Lin is one of our premier small business success stories. But most importantly, she has the best food in town.

I invite you to take a tour of the space and sample some treats in the conference room behind you. We also have bag lunches from Culinary Architecture that you can eat here or take with you.

Thank you all for coming today—and for caring so deeply about Maryland’s entrepreneurial future.


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