Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, February 8, 2010

Leaders map out goals for University Research Corridor

LANSING — Michigan’s University Research Corridor has five major goals, starting with boosting collaboration at all levels — faculty, staff and students — among U-M, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.

Other top priorities, mapped out by Executive Director Jeff Mason and the three URC presidents as they marked the opening of the new URC headquarters in Lansing on Friday, include:

From left, URC Executive Director Jeff Mason makes a point for Wayne State President Jay Noren, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and MSU President Lou Anna Simon during a discussion at the URC open house Friday. (Photo by Greg Kohuth, MSU University Relations)

• Increasing awareness of the URC and its assets, within and beyond Michigan.

• Providing support to the state in new business recruitment and development.

• Accelerating economic development statewide by taking advantage of opportunities between the URC and other partners, including other public and private universities and regional economic development organizations.

• Assisting local communities in revitalizing metropolitan areas.

Releasing a report detailing accomplishments over the past year, Mason detailed the growth of the life sciences industry and its connection to university research, and listed major employers who have come to the state attracted by the talent of the URC’s faculty, students and graduates. They include General Electric, IBM, Google and Toyota.

Asked by reporters what type of help the URC leaders expected from state government — which has cut support for higher education throughout the past decade — they stressed that the URC was designed to leverage the value of what the state has invested over the past 150 years to help the state when it needs help the most.

“I firmly believe that we will all rise, we will all challenge each other to be better as we are collaborating to help the state,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “We clearly understand that our future is deeply connected with the state’s future. We believe that we can be a positive force for change and we want to do that.”

Coleman and her URC counterparts described a vision of researchers from all three universities working together at U-M’s new North Campus Research Complex, Wayne State’s TechTown and MSU facilities, each supporting the other as partners rather than rivals.

“Their success is our success,’’ said MSU President Lou Anna Simon. “It’s not, ‘If they succeed, then we don’t.’’’

The URC headquarters is in Lansing rather than on one of the universities’ campuses, Mason said, because each of the universities serves the entire state, and the city offers a central location close to other statewide organizations easily accessible to many parts of the state.

Wayne State President Jay Noren, who had spent much of his career outside Michigan before assuming the WSU presidency in 2008, said the level of cooperation and the complementary abilities of the three universities, each research universities but with different missions and strengths, were especially unique, allowing each to take the lead in different areas with support from the other two partners.

Noren described how WSU and U-M backed and aided MSU’s successful efforts to beat Illinois in a national competition to house a $550 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Simon noted a third of MSU students are from southeastern Michigan and she firmly expected many would set up business at WSU’s TechTown, which tripled the number of tenants last year.

“We have one of the nation’s very top cover-all-the-bases institutions in Michigan, and Michigan State is the top land grant university or one of the top,’’ Noren said. “Wayne State is clearly one of the leading urban research universities. When you combine those things together, we really cover all the bases like none of those other consortia.”