University Research Corridor a Worthy Investment

University Research Corridor a Worthy Investment
February 4, 2013/Detroit News

By Lou Anna K. Simon, Mary Sue Coleman and Allan Gilmour
At a time when Michigan's leaders are working hard to guarantee they're getting the best return on the public's tax dollars, a recent study shows that Michigan's University Research Corridor (URC) is a good place to invest.
For every dollar the state invested in the three URC universities — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — it saw $17 in economic benefits in fiscal year 2010-11, according to the report by Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing. That added up to $15.5 billion in economic impact statewide.
The three universities conferred 31,683 graduate and undergraduate degrees in 2011, more than any of the six university innovation clusters the URC has benchmarked itself against since 2007, according to the sixth annual URC Economic Impact Report ( More than half of the students graduating in 2011 received degrees in high-tech, high-demand and medical fields.
As the presidents of the three URC universities, we believe our graduates are key to strengthening and expanding Michigan's economy. Equally powerful are the inventions and technologies developed by faculty from a diverse range of fields. The word is getting out that, if businesses want the brightest minds in engineering, biomedicine and alternative energy, they need to be in Michigan.
One measure of that success is annual research and development (R&D) spending by URC universities. The amount has grown to $2 billion, a jump of 43 percent in five years. The URC's R&D growth rate now tops six other major university innovation clusters, including well-known hubs such as North Carolina's Research Triangle Park and Massachusetts' Route 128 Corridor.
That $2 billion in R&D helps bring talented and creative people to the state, making Michigan a place people want to live, work and launch enterprises. Since 2002, the URC universities have cultivated 149 start-up companies, including 18 in 2011, when the URC ranked behind only Southern California and Massachusetts.
Furthermore, the URC is working to expand the economic benefits it brings to the state. The $15.5 billion in state economic activity the URC contributed in fiscal year 2011 was up $2.6 billion — 20 percent — over the 2007 report.
We know that Michigan's economic success is vital to our students' ability to get good jobs when they graduate.
We are working hard to help businesses succeed by providing the research and talent they need. That R&D not only is creating knowledge, it's creating jobs.
The URC itself was responsible in 2011 for more than 74,000 direct and indirect jobs statewide, with every region of Michigan benefiting. The impact ranged from $64 million in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to $5.6 billion in Southeast Michigan.
We're confident the annual reports we've commissioned from Anderson Economic Group show the URC is playing a strong role in reinvigorating Michigan's economy. We're also confident that the URC stacks up well against peer university innovation clusters nationwide, leading in some measures and on its way to catching and exceeding clusters in Northern California, Southern California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
We are working to make Michigan a national leader in innovation and developing talent. We are committed to giving the state and taxpayers a strong return on their investment. Michigan State, the University of Michigan and Wayne State are critical Michigan assets that are proving their worth nationally, globally and in all corners of the state.
Lou Anna K. Simon is president of Michigan State University. Mary Sue Coleman is president of the University of Michigan. Allan Gilmour is president of Wayne State University.