Michigan's top research universities fuel 21st century auto industry

May 30, 2012

For more information about a program, click on its label in the graphic below to be redirected to that section of the report (PDF).

Lithium Air Batteries Thermal to electric conversion Composite materials Biofuels Plant experimentation for biofuel Biomass conversion Safety pilot programs Safety modeling for young and old The 2 Millimeter Project Fuel cell development Hybrid vehicle control systems Hybrid powertrain Turbulent flows in engines combustion HCCI engine research Variable valve timing prototype Battery quality Connected vehicle Injury research and education

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MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – Michigan’s three research-intensive universities power the state’s resurgent automotive industry with more than 3,600 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates annually, and spent more than $300 million on auto-related research in the past five years.

Those are among results of an independent analysis conducted by Anderson Economic Group of Lansing and Chicago for the University Research Corridor's annual technology sector study. The report outlines the contributions of URC members Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan to auto technology and highlights the competitive pressures facing the American auto industry.

"In order to respond to industry challenges, automakers have continually innovated to improve their products and operations," said Patrick Anderson, CEO of AEG. "Michigan has been home to much of this innovation due to the clustering of auto manufacturers and their suppliers in the state. These top institutions have created and sustained a pool of talent that has attracted both domestic and international companies to locate their research centers here. Michigan still accounts for fully 28 percent of all jobs in the U.S. automotive sector, with more than 136,000 Michigan residents employed in the industry. This report shows how Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State are supporting innovation in our cornerstone industry."

Some highlights from the report:

  • The auto industry faces ever-higher demands to improve performance and quality at a lower cost. The URC universities are involved in every step of the innovation process to meet these challenges.
  • The URC universities supply talented workers to the auto industry, conferring more than 3,600 degrees annually in auto-ready disciplines.
  • Universities play a direct role in auto industry innovation by spending $60 million annually of their R&D dollars on auto-related research and development.
  • Between FY 2007 and 2011, the URC universities spent $300 million on over 1,400 auto projects. Nearly two-thirds of this research was funded by federal and state governmental agencies.
  • Private industry funded 28 percent of all auto research at the URC universities in the past five years, which is nine times the average share of industry funding for all university R&D at these institutions.
  • URC researchers have helped automakers improve vehicle quality and safety, improve engine efficiency and performance, and reduce fossil fuel use through new auto approaches. Specific examples include:
    • The 2mm project that involved U-M and WSU that limited and controlled the gaps between auto components
    • The connected vehicle research at U-M and WSU that promises improved safety by allowing vehicles to “talk” to one another and the infrastructure
    • Biofuels research that is currently being done by MSU on new types of feedstock that can be grown more economically to lower fuel costs and improve fuel efficiency.

“Universities are critical to Ford and the rest of the auto industry as they provide an additional talent pipeline and aid us in early stage research and development,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company and Chairman of the New Michigan Initiative of Business Leaders for Michigan. “The partnering of universities and companies provides students with real-world problems to research and solve, while allowing companies to leverage external expertise in new technical areas.”

The Auto Sector report is the fifth annual industry sector report commissioned by the URC and conducted by AEG. Below are brief summaries of the previous reports:

Information and Communication Technology (2011)

  • The URC universities (Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University) spent nearly $74 million on research projects with a strong IT focus in FY2010.
  • Of the nearly 150 start-ups the URC has assisted in creating since 2001, approximately 40 percent have had a distinct ICT component.
  • Information technology employs about 3.5 percent of the state’s workforce, or about 135,000 workers, and is significant not only as its own sector but as the underpinning for much of the major industry activity and growth represented in previous sector reports.
  • The industry pays high wages, with employees earning about $20,000 more than other workers in the private sector.

Advanced Manufacturing (2010)

  • Michigan’s advanced manufacturing industry employs 381,351 workers, accounting for 10.3 percent of all employment (2007 data). Fully one-third of advanced manufacturing jobs in the Midwest are in Michigan.
  • The average wages in the advanced manufacturing industry was $64,122.
  • URC universities spent $101 million on advanced manufacturing R&D in 2009.
  • URC universities are educating more than 14,000 students in engineering.

Life Sciences (2009)

  • Michigan’s life sciences industry employed more than 79,000 workers, accounting for 2.1 percent of all employment (2006 data).
  • Between 1999 and 2006, life sciences industry employment grew by 10.7 percent while during that same time period manufacturing employment dropped by 24 percent.
  • Life sciences wages averaged $83,494 in 2006.
  • In 2008, URC universities spent $887 million on life sciences research and development.
  • R&D expenditures grew 69 percent since the founding of the Life Sciences Corridor in 1999.

Alternative Energy Research and Development (2008)

  • Michigan has a comparative advantage in biomass and wind compared to the energy potential in the other 49 states.
  • URC universities spent more than $79.5 million on R&D related to alternative energy in 2007.
  • Federal funding provided 71 percent ($56.8 million) of total R&D funding in alternative energy.
  • More than 50 percent of all alternative energy R&D supported the auto industry.

About the URC

The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University formed the URC to leverage their collective assets, encourage collaboration and increase business partnerships, with an overarching goal of accelerating statewide economic development. The URC has a net economic impact on Michigan's economy of $15.2 billion.


Jeff Mason
Executive Director
Michigan's University Research Corridor
Email: jeffmason@urcmich.org
Phone: 517-999-4007

Mark Fellows
Michigan State University
Email: mark.fellows@ur.msu.edu
Phone: 517-884-0166

Laura Lessnau
Director, News Service
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Email: llessnau@umich.edu
Phone: 734-647-1851

Michael Wright
Wayne State University
Email: m.wright@wayne.edu
Phone: 313-577-6491