Published November 19, 2014 in the Baltimore Business Journal.

Two University System of Maryland schools are turning investor.

University of Maryland, Baltimore, and University of Maryland, College Park plan to invest up to $500,000 each in Maryland-based startups that use technology licensed from the universities.

UM Ventures, the tech transfer office for the two schools, on Wednesday announced its first equity investment. UM Ventures contributed $100,000 to Harpoon Medical Inc.’s Series A, which now totals $3.6 million. The Stevensville company is developing a surgical tool for minimally invasive heart valve surgery, using technology licensed from University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Until now, UM Ventures’ role has been to troll university research labs for ideas that can be commercialized. The tech transfer office helps faculty members pursue licenses, patents and startups, and helps connect new companies to business resources.

“We’ve created about 100 companies through this method but we’ve never had any cash to put in them,” said James L. Hughes, the director of UM Ventures.

The university system’s board of regents earlier this year approved UM Ventures to use $500,000 in licensing revenue from each of the two schools to invest in startups. Hughes said he does not expect the office invest the entire $1 million. The office is looking into other revenue sources, such as foundations and donations from individuals.

“The first dollars into a company are usually the most difficult to raise,” Hughes said. “This helps them get started.”

Hughes hopes experienced entrepreneurs will be attracted to these companies because they were able to get funded early and sign on to help lead them.