The Centrepolis Accelerator – Working to Grow Manufacturing and Bring Sustainable Opportunities to Michigan


On the campus of Lawrence Technological University, the Centrepolis Accelerator is focused on the growth of Southeast Michigan’s small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs, largely in the areas of climatech, cleantech, and the circular economy. Centrepolis, a uniquely positioned nonprofit business facilitator, provides access to key resources, a collaborative community, product development, and manufacturing experts with an impetus to keep manufacturing in Michigan and thus bring Michigan manufacturers and companies new opportunities. Executive Director Dan Radomski previously held COO and chief strategy officer positions with  Optimal Inc.– a Plymouth, Mich., based firm focused on product development, competitive benchmarking, and vehicle engineering. In a prior role as VP of industry and venture development at NextEnergy, Radomski led incubator services and market and technology analytic efforts to support the growth of early-stage and mature energy technology firms in areas such as wind, solar, advanced batteries, power electronics, vehicle electrification, smart grid, microgrid, natural gas, and energy efficiency. SBND spoke to him about the work Centrepolis is doing toward cleantech, climatech, and the circular economy as well as keeping development and manufacturing in Michigan.  Q: What exactly is Centrepolis? A: The Centrepolis Accelerator is accelerating the growth of Southeast Michigan’s small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs with an emphasis on the circular economy. It’s the only incubator I’m aware of that offers in-house design, engineering, and prototype capabilities, plus access to funding, experts, customers, and strategic partnerships. If an inventor, start-up, small business, or manufacturer has an idea for a product, we are the place to come to get help in design, engineering, prototyping, testing, and prepping to manufacture. We work with many different individuals and entities. Some have engineering backgrounds and many do not. Designing out cost while ensuring durability and reliability in products are common challenges faced when bringing a new product to market. We harness the manufacturing expertise that’s so prevalent in Michigan and connect corporations and individuals to get more products developed and manufactured in Michigan. Q: How did Centrepolis come to be and what’s the impetus behind it? A: I grew up as a machinist working in my Dad’s machine shop. He and his friends made solid careers and good lives for their families as machinists. I’ve worked for small, midsized, and international product development firms and manufacturers throughout my career. Over the years I’ve seen a significant increase in outsourcing to China and started thinking about the future of my family and of other Michiganders. I felt like we needed a program to keep manufacturing in Southeast Michigan and help people who don’t have the engineering know-how. So, in 2017 we launched Centrepolis – the state’s only hardware accelerator program – with Lawrence Tech, the City of Southfield, and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.  (MEDC). I also had some experience working with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy(EGLE) so I took the idea to them. They said if the accelerator focused on cleantech hardware they would be interested in helping to fund it. I said we will focus not only on cleantech but also climatech and circular economy products, which came to be our C3 Accelerator program. Q: With whom do you work? A: This is another way we differ greatly from other incubator programs. Most incubators focus on helping start-ups only, but we offer services for all entrepreneurs whether they are an individual, a start-up, or established small businesses. Many would be surprised to know that 40% of our clients are established small businesses. We offer support on three levels essentially. First, we assist with customer discovery, competitive landscape research, and the securing of patents and trademarks. We also offer tactical support such as business strategy, and connections to customers, strategic partners, suppliers, and manufacturers. With some clients, we engage more deeply in the entire process, from investment to design to engineering to prototype to product launch. As we all know, there are solutions around sustainability globally, so we crowdsource and hunt down the best innovations in sustainable materials and recycling technologies and bring them into Michigan to partner with companies such as Whirlpool and Steelcase, among others. We have brought several companies with really interesting technologies focused on waste removal into Michigan to partner with manufacturers here. Q: What are some examples? A: Savormetrics is a great company in Canada. They are an award-winning AI-sensor company that provides Quality Assurance/Quality Controls systems to the food and agriculture industries to prevent food waste in food production, processing, and distribution. They have partnered with vertical farms and food processors here in Michigan and built solutions for vertical farms that increase yields by at least 30% and decrease operating costs by over 50%. Glacier is a very compelling recycling automation start-up in San Francisco that is developing a new robotic sorter for material recovery facilities that performs just as effectively as other robots, at a much lower cost and smaller footprint. We have facilitated funding for them through EGLE and partnerships with local material recovery facilities. Centrepolis also gained funding for local companies like Detect-It in Oak Park, which offers software that now helps to sort textiles such as end-of-life waste clothing and separate materials cotton from synthetic materials to improve recycling. Q: How are LTU students involved? A: We have five interns who are student workers. They help with business strategy as well as product design, engineering, and prototyping I can point to the Glacier recycling automation here. We are activating students now to help engineer and design a new end effector for robotic arms to help sort plastics for improved rates of recycling. Q: What does the future look like for Centrepolis? A: To continue getting more and more products made in Michigan.  We currently have over three dozen products that have come out of Centrepolis that are completely made in Michigan. I’m also very proud of the fact that 366 of our clients now provide contracts with Michigan suppliers equating to over $24 million in business to the local supply chain. That’s an amazing amount of business and illustrates the economic multiplier of