NMU Board Approves SmartZone Operating Agreement, Property Rental

Wednesday 14, 2017

The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees approved a collaborative operating agreement involving Invent@NMU and Innovate Marquette SmartZone. It also authorized a no-cost rental arrangement with the Michigan Department of Corrections that enables NMU to begin developing the future site of its forensic research outdoor station (FROST) before the previously approved property transfer is completed. The board held a special session Wednesday morning to take action on timely agenda items that needed to be addressed before the next regularly scheduled meeting.

Trustees expressed their support for the collaborative operating agreement as part of a grant application submitted to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Innovate Marquette SmartZone, an entrepreneurial ecosystem for tech-based ideas, will assume responsibility for the management and operations of Invent@NMU, which helps to bring physical products from concept to market while giving students real-world experience with community clients. NMU will serve as the fiscal agent if the MEDC grant is approved. The university will also receive funds to cover its associated costs, including student labor.

“We feel this is a strong partnership that will enable Invent@NMU to grow in the future,” said Gavin Leach, vice president for Finance and Administration.

The rental arrangement with the Michigan Department of Corrections allows NMU to begin making improvements to the research site along US-41 near Marquette Branch Prison while final deed transfer documents are being completed. Gov. Rick Snyder previously signed a bill conveying the 2.3-acre property to NMU for its forensic research outdoor station. The facility will be one of only eight worldwide and the first in a cold climate. NMU is required to provide insurance coverage and security during the rental period.

Relatively little information exists on the effects of freezing and thawing on human decomposition. NMU students and faculty will conduct this pioneering research in varying conditions and scenarios. They will create the baseline data so critical to the quickly advancing field of forensic anthropology, the science of analyzing human remains to determine an individual’s identity and the timing and manner of death. The facility also has the potential to enhance the regional economy by offering specialized training and research opportunities for law enforcement, government agencies, military personnel and visiting scientists.

Kristi Evans
News Director