Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, January 22, 2010

Big year for U-M in tough times: $1B in research, new inventions, NCRC

In the midst of the most severe recession since the Great Depression, research spending at U-M topped $1 billion last year, researchers were awarded more than $218 million in federal stimulus grants and faculty members disclosed a record 350 inventions.

Also online
Read the Annual Report on Research and Scholarship FY2009 Financial Summary:

Take a video tour of the North Campus Research Complex.

The university purchased the former Pfizer pharmaceutical research facility, a 30-building complex adjacent to the university’s current North Campus, in June 2009, and renamed it the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC).

These were some of the highlights in Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest’s annual report to the Board of Regents at its meeting Thursday.

This month, about 300 U-M employees were notified they will be the first to move into NCRC, starting in spring 2010.

Forrest told the regents that research spending at the university rose 9.4 percent last year, topping $1 billion for the first time. University researchers were awarded more than $218 million in federal stimulus-package research grants in 2009. In addition, faculty disclosed a record 350 new inventions last year, the university licensed eight new startup companies, and efforts to promote campuswide innovation and entrepreneurship intensified.

“We’ve continued to thrive in times of uncertain opportunity because of the high quality of our faculty across the disciplines,” Forrest said.

The university is poised to reinvent the way research is done, Forrest said. That means tearing down the walls between basic and applied science, and building interdisciplinary partnerships between academics and a variety of partners who solve complex problems together, he said.

“We’re entering a period when university researchers will be working hand in glove with government and industry partners so that all aspects of a problem — from the fundamental to the applied — will be addressed simultaneously,” he said.

Such collaborations between disciplines and with industry partners will occur across the campus — including at the NCRC in the near future. University leaders envision the 174-acre site as a place where U-M scientists and engineers form interdisciplinary teams with partners from industry, government and other universities around the world. These cross-sector teams will take on “human-scale problems” ranging from global health and environmental sustainability to understanding the most fundamental mechanisms of how the brain functions.

“Now is the time to do it. The University of Michigan’s research profile has never been stronger,” said Forrest. “And at this moment in time we also have acquired this enormous resource that allows for rapid growth. The vision and leadership of the Medical School in this acquisition has afforded U-M an unprecedented opportunity.”

Dr. Ora Pescovitz, who is leading the NCRC development, said she is “gratified to see the tremendous interest and involvement of faculty from across the campus who are proposing new approaches to major problems facing society.”

“This will allow us to build on the accomplishments of our outstanding faculty and foster new opportunities for collaboration and creativity,” said Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs and chief executive officer of the U-M Health System.