P&G Deal is Potential Seed for Research

P&G Deal is Potential Seed for Research
January 21, 2011/The Detroit News

MSU, U-M, WSU partnership aims to facilitate investment
By Melissa Burden
A partnership between Procter & Gamble and Michigan’s top research universities could spur interest from more powerhouse companies and attract more research dollars to the state, university officials said Thursday.

The proposed agreement between Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer products company, and the University Research Corridor — Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University — was announced in Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address Wednesday evening and is expected to be signed over the next month. The master agreement — which streamlines legal hurdles between the parties to fast-track future research — will eventually be expanded to include all of Michigan’s 15 public universities, creating opportunities for students to learn from major   corporations, Snyder said.

“Agreements like this bring more companies and more exposure to the universities, and bring more companies engaged in research to the universities,” said Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor. “By other companies seeing what the universities have done … hopefully they will see that the universities are open to this type of research engagement.”

 Of the $1.6 billion in research and development dollars awarded to the universities in 2009, only about 4 percent came from businesses, Mason said. It’s a number officials expect to grow with this agreement and possibly others. 

Procter & Gamble, a Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 company, has one other similar agreement, with all of Ohio’s public universities and colleges, signed last April and believed to be the first of its kind in the country, said Lisa Popyk, a company spokeswoman.

 That agreement is modeled after one signed with the University of Cincinnati in 2005.     After signing that deal, the company invested about $1.7 million into non-pharmaceutical research at the university, up from a total of about $210,000 between 1997 and 2005, Popyk said.

“It really enabled us to escalate our investments and our collaboration,” she said. “Really our hope is that this just opens the doors for other companies to just do this (create statewide master research agreements) as well.”

Charles Hasemann, executive director of Michigan State’s Business-CONNECT office, which  works with businesses to partner with MSU in research projects, said the agreement with the University Research Corridor institutions will give the state a leg up over others for landing research projects. He said MSU expects to receive an influx of inquiries from other companies after the deal is signed.

Hasemann said MSU has had some 25 different agreements with Proctor & Gamble over time for research and that the new agreement will avoid time and energy wasted renegotiating contracts each time a new project comes along.

“We end up burning time and effort, and the science is caught in the gap,” he said, adding less   lag time to start research projects may help attract students and post doctoral fellows.

Both MSU and Wayne State have master research agreements with companies. MSU, for example, has agreements with companies such as Pfizer Inc.’s animal health division and Dow Corning Corp. in Midland.

Wayne State actively reaches out to industry to work on research. Less than a year ago, WSU opened a business engagement office, said Judy Johncox, WSU associate vice president for technology commercialization.

 In fiscal 2010, Wayne State tallied $11.1 million in research grants from corporations, up $4.2 million from the year before.