MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (May 29, 2014) – Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC) is playing a major role in protecting the water resources of Michigan and the Great Lakes region and using those resources to promote economic development in the state and globally, a new report shows.

The three universities that make up the URC – Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University – received nearly $300 million in awards for water-related research and outreach from 2009 to 2013. The 2,100 awards led to innovations in a wide variety of areas, from dealing with invasive species to monitoring water quality and finding ways to optimize water use in agriculture, according to “Innovating for the Blue Economy,” a report released today at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference.

In addition to R&D, the three URC universities each year produce more than 3,400 graduates prepared to analyze and find solutions to water-related issues in academia, government and the private sector, bringing new talent and energy to the field. Nearly 40 percent of those graduates earned advanced degrees, according to the report. The three universities offer 68 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in water-related areas such as engineering, agriculture, public health, natural resources and business.

The report was prepared by East Lansing, Mich.-based Anderson Economic Group (AEG)., which has studied the URC’s impact in the auto, information technology, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and alternative energy sectors in previous years.

“Michigan’s entire history and quality of life is tied to water, and the URC works hard to protect that important resource and find ways to advance the state’s economy through water-related technology and innovation,” said URC executive director Jeff Mason.

AEG’s analysis showed that Michigan ranked fourth in the nation in the percentage of jobs associated with industries related to water, at 718,700.

“One in five Michigan jobs is tied to having good and plentiful water,” said AEG founder and CEO Patrick Anderson. “It is an important economic driver in Michigan, and extends to Great Lakes shipping, advanced manufacturing, agriculture and fishing, and over 80 other industry subsectors where Michigan workers are employed today.”

While most of Michigan’s water-related jobs are in water-enabled industries such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing, about 138,000 are in core water products and services producing water treatment facilities and solving water quality and quantity issues.

“Water isn’t just Michigan’s defining characteristic but the foundation of life on earth,” said Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Our three universities make significant commitments to support water-related research and programs. These not only support Michigan’s economy and quality of life, but position the state as a knowledge wellspring for the world’s most precious natural resource.”

While much of the URC’s work affects the Great Lakes region, it has a global reach as well. All three universities collaborate with researchers around the state, the country and the world.

“The URC is making important contributions to interdisciplinary research, including work being done in the United States and Canada through the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the International Joint Commission,” said University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman. “We’re proud to be part of this well-deserved focus on protecting and developing water resources.”

URC universities are engaged in research on the major lakes bordering the state and the inland lakes, streams, and wetlands that make up Great Lakes basin, as well as water systems across the United States and around the world.

“We are fortunate to be surrounded by the greatest body of fresh water in the world with a fifth of the world’s freshwater supply at our fingertips,” said Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. “The URC is working hard to make sure that water is an economic resource not only for today but for future generations of Michigan residents.”