October 15, 2007
A short video “...and there will be a change,” a podcast and a slideshow are available at: http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?Releases/2007/Oct07/urc
URC Presidents Outline Actions to Aid Michigan’s Economy
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University Research Corridor presidents Monday described their vision for stimulating technology transfer, business development and increased partnerships by announcing several new initiatives to help invigorate Michigan’s economy.
Speaking at a URC conference that drew leaders from across the nation, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, Wayne State University President Irvin D. Reid and Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon outlined their latest efforts to spur Michigan’s growing knowledge-based economy.
“The University Research Corridor is still a fledgling organization, but we are leveraging our assets across the state to accelerate economic growth,” Coleman said. “Today, less than a year after the URC was formed, we’re reporting on efforts that showcase the work of research universities in revitalizing Michigan’s economy.”
The conference, “The Role of Engaged Universities in Economic Transformation,” is aimed at addressing the major competitiveness issues raised in the landmark National Academy of Sciences report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.''
“The URC enables all three of our institutions to measure, align, and leverage our combined assets for the benefit of the state and allows us to remain globally competitive,” Simon said. “At Michigan State University we are working to integrate innovations in the lab with advances in the marketplace to enhance the economy, the environment, and the quality of life in Michigan and around the globe.”
Among the action plans detailed Monday:
— Business development. In the wake of Pfizer’s
plans to reduce its Michigan presence, the universities moved quickly
to retain research jobs and find new uses for desirable laboratory
space. U-M and Ann Arbor SPARK announced Monday they have transformed
Pfizer’s former Traverwood facility into a wet lab incubator
and are already filling the facility with four startup company tenants
and other researchers. MSU has similar plans for a former Pfizer facility
In addition, Ann Arbor SPARK is establishing two additional office incubators in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Altogether, SPARK is working with 31 startup businesses that have or plan to move into one of their three business accelerators.
— Leveraging assets and technology. U-M and Wayne State announced they have joined forces through STIET, a multi-disciplinary research-education program involving corporations like Google, Yahoo and IBM to train the PhDs who will transform the Internet into one that is speedier, more secure and spam-free. Simultaneously, they are developing new technology to make it easier for the best and brightest minds to collaborate, creating virtual classrooms and laboratories that enable faculty and students to share classes and laboratory assets seamlessly. Key to the effort is Michigan LambdaRail, an ultra high speed fiber optic network developed by the universities.
— Exploiting new opportunities. All three universities
are working to greatly expand research related to a highly promising
industry: alternative energy. MSU this summer received a $50 million
grant to help establish the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and
this fall opened a $10 million alternative energy research center.
Meanwhile, Wayne State has established the National Biofuel Energy
Lab and lured NextEnergy to its TechTown development while U-M has
established the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute, part of
a $35 million per year investment in energy research.
Other speakers Monday included Charles Vest, president emeritus of MIT and a former University of Michigan provost who helped craft the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report as well as U.S. Rep. John Dingell, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Commerce Sandy Baruah, Ford Motor Co. Vice President of Global Product Development Derrick Kuzak, Gateway Computers founder Rick Snyder and Meijer Inc. President Mark Murray, former president of Grand Valley State University and a former Michigan state budget director
Building upon a promise to increase partnerships, the URC has recently announced a number of outreach efforts across the state including:
— Working with 20 other Michigan colleges and universities to establish the Michigan Higher Education Recruitment Consortium to attract and retain talent in the state
— Partnering with community hospitals in the landmark National Children’s Study.
— Establishing offices for U-M and MSU Detroit-based research and outreach efforts. Their locations, close to the Wayne State campus, further aid the ability to collaborate.
Wayne State President Irvin D. Reid added: “The URC has begun the long process of tearing down walls that divide us and our researchers are using technology to literally put us all in the same room. At our TechTown project and now at U-M’s new wet lab incubator and soon at MSU’s new incubator in Holland, you see today’s entrepreneurs who are truly pioneers in new industries.”
The presidents Monday also released the first annual report on the
progress of the URC. A pdf version of the report is available at:
For more on the University Research Corridor and other URC initiatives,