June 2013 Newsletter Article

Q&A With The Presidents

Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour launched the University Research Corridor’s Embracing Entrepreneurship report on Thursday. Here, they discuss the report’s highlights.

Question: What’s the primary finding from the report?

President Simon: The report shows that, since 1996, the three URC universities are producing entrepreneurs at double the national rate among people who have college degrees. One in five of our URC alumni are entrepreneurs.

Q: How did the URC go about finding this out?

President Coleman: Anderson Economic Group did a great study for us. Working with survey data collected by Survey Sciences Group LLC, AEG surveyed 450,000 alumni and got 40,000 responses back.

Q: What other results did the survey show?

President Gilmour: We discovered that, of those, more than 19 percent had started at least one business, some of them two. And half of those are in Michigan.

Q: Where were the rest?

President Simon: URC alumni started or acquired businesses in all 50 states, and more than 100 countries. What’s more, URC alumni entrepreneurs overall were more likely to keep those businesses alive during the past five years.

Q: Were you surprised by any of the findings?

President Coleman: It was interesting to learn that the entrepreneurs majored in disciplines you might not necessarily expect, like business, arts, architecture, law and computer science. Often students started businesses in areas that weren’t their major, but they got the skills they needed at the URC universities to do this and be successful.

Q: How is this helping Michigan’s economy?

President Gilmour: These entrepreneurs are starting businesses, being successful, putting money into the economy at far younger ages than in the past. Among URC alumni who graduated over the past decade and started their first business, 70 percent were between the ages of 23 and 31.

Q: What are the universities doing to spur entrepreneurship?

President Simon: The three URC universities now offer 40 programs and resources for students, alumni and faculty to spur entrepreneurship and innovation.

Q: What are some of those programs and resources?

President Coleman: They include classes and degrees in entrepreneurship, business incubators, special business advisers and gap funding to help start-ups get off the ground.

Q: What else are the three URC universities doing to help the economy?

President Gilmour: The universities already have commercialized some of their research through start-ups and tech transfer, creating jobs and economic activity.