LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 28, 2009) – Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC) has improved in all competitive categories over the past two years, rising among the nation’s top R&D clusters for producing patents, businesses and graduates with high-tech related degrees.

Since benchmarking began in 2007, URC partners U-M, Michigan State University and Wayne State University have improved in several key areas of their impact on Michigan’s economy, and in their competitiveness with the best innovation clusters in other states, according to Empowering Michigan, the latest annual study of URC impact conducted by Anderson Economic Group.

“Even in tough times, these three institutions are showing the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, making a $14.5 billion impact on Michigan’s economy, up almost 10 percent,” says URC Executive Director Jeff Mason. “These institutions are producing both innovation and new company spinoffs that rival other major research regions of the nation and returning $16 for every dollar the state invests.

“We’re third in patents granted (up from fifth two years ago); fourth in technology licenses (up from sixth); and we are producing an average of 20 new companies a year, more than one company a month for the past 60 months. The number of start-ups the URC universities helped cultivate in 2008 dramatically increased from the previous year going from 14 in 2007 to 28 in 2008.”

The URC also awarded the third largest number of high-tech degrees (7,638), close behind Pennsylvania (7,713) and southern California (8,266).

The economic impact was actually $1.6 billion greater in the new 2009 report than in the initial 2007 study, AEG found. Meanwhile, the URC’s research spending grew to $1.4 billion, with most of that money coming into the state through federal grants.

“This is significant given that employment in most other industries and sectors in Michigan has declined since 2007,” says Caroline Sallee, the lead author of the report and director of AEG’s Chicago office. “Growth in crucial R&D expenditures slowed between 2006-2007, mostly due to a 14 percent drop in state and local funding of the URC universities.”

“We founded the URC in late 2006 agreeing that we must partner or perish and these numbers show the value of working together and tapping the power of this combined resource,” President Mary Sue Coleman says.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon adds, “In a global economy, our competitors are around the world so we must continually benchmark ourselves against the best and brightest. We’ve shown Michigan can and does compete with the best minds in the world every day by developing the innovations and training students for the fields that are growing or have the potential to grow.”

“Michigan’s economic diversification,” says WSU President Jay Noren, “and its return to prosperity, will take the kind of vision, imagination and technical expertise present in the University Research Corridor institutions. But even more than that, such a transformation will take people — skilled, knowledgeable and highly motivated men and women.”

The study found the research universities accounted for 93 percent of federal academic research dollars brought into Michigan; all three are among the top 75 of more than 600 U.S. research universities. The seven clusters examined together accounted for 20 percent of all research spending conducted by U.S. universities.

The report measures the research corridor universities against six comparable clusters in regions known as knowledge economy leaders:

  • Boston’s 128 Corridor: Harvard University/Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University
  • Silicon Valley/Northern California: Stanford University, University of California-Berkley and UC-San Francisco
  • The Research Triangle: University of North Carolina, Duke University and N.C. State University
  • Chicago/Illinois: University of Chicago, Northwestern University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Southern California: UCLA, University of Southern California and UC-San Diego
  • Pennsylvania: Penn State University (all campuses), University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.


The URC was founded to leverage the power of Michigan’s research universities to transform the state’s economy.