GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Michigan’s University Research Corridor should be in the same conversation as the innovative research clusters in Boston, Silicone Valley and North Carolina, college presidents told The Economic Development Club Monday, Nov. 20.
The University Research Corridor (URC) — comprised of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University – pumped $16.5 billion into Michigan’s economy. That’s a $3.7 billion increase since it was formed in 2007.
“The work of the URC in research is as good as any place in the country and we need to start touting that wherever you are in the state,” said MSU President Lou Anna Simon.
“The purpose of the URC was to recognize that if you deal with one of us you have access to all of us. Michigan is a place where people and companies can come and be very, very successful.”
Simon was joined in a panel discussion at the J.W. Marriott with U-M President Mark Schlissel and Wayne State President Roy Wilson. The discussion was moderated by Steve Heacock, senior vice president of public affairs at Spectrum Health.
Over the past decade, the presidents say URC research has led to advances in medicine and business and society overall.
The universities were responsible for $2.15 billion in research and development spending in fiscal year 2015, including $1.2 billion specifically in R&D for Life Medical and Health Sciences (LMHS).
The UCR’s 10th annual economic impact report says every county in Michigan has benefited from economic activities tied to the corridor.
The presidents pointed out during the Econ Club luncheon that investments and advancements in research continue to grow.
But Schlissel said state investment isn’t even keeping up with our modest rate of inflation.
He said the universities are receiving the same amount of money they were getting in 1997, despite their growth. For U-M, he said that’s just over $300 million.
“What seems to happen with each budget cycle in Lansing is it begins with good intentions with recognition of the importance of higher education, but the process ends with a modest increase being traded away to balance the budget,” he said.
“That’s frustrating year after year. We need educated employees to drive the economy.”
The presidents say the URC develops an important of pool of talent for the state, citing the 34,547 degrees conferred, including 2,392 medical degrees. That’s the highest number of advanced degrees in the medical and biological science fields than any peer university research cluster.
“What’s the one thing that people are doing wherever you go? They are investing in talent for the next generation,” Simon said.
If you think about research as an asset for driving economic development forward, Simon said why would the state continue to under-fund the research universities with 95 percent of the R&D dollars.
Wilson said for every dollar the state invests, $22 is returned through research. He said URC’s cutting-edge research is creating investment in communities and new jobs.
Seventy-nine start-up companies have formed in the past five years, including 22 in 2015.
“I hope what resonated from our presentation is that research is worth investing in from a quality of life and economic development standpoint,” Wilson said. “It is something to increase investment in.”
The research cluster is focused on talent creation, academic research and economic revitalization.
“The URC is as strong and needed today as it was 11 years ago,” Simon said.