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Updated 10:00 AM June 8, 2009

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Forrest to chair Ann Arbor SPARK board

Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest has been named board chairman of Ann Arbor SPARK, the region's economic development authority.
(Photo courtesy OVPR)

Forrest was elected during SPARK's annual meeting May 21. He succeeds Rick Snyder, who served as chairman since the organization's formation in 2005.

"I'm happy to take on this greater level of involvement in Ann Arbor SPARK," Forrest says. "The organization is one of the keys to keeping the doors open between the intellectual resources at the University of Michigan and the business community in the region."

Forrest was appointed vice president for research in September 2005 and is a professor in the departments of physics, electrical engineering and computer science. He personally holds more than 185 patents and has co-founded several private companies.

He has been the driving force behind the university's recent efforts to strengthen ties with business and industry.

"This effort to strengthen ties with industry has been a steady push for several years now, and the word is out that we strongly support this from the highest levels of the university," Forrest says. "And our efforts are finally starting to bear fruit."

Highlights of those efforts include:

• The formation of the U-M Business Engagement Center last year. In its first year, the BEC assisted more than 100 businesses seeking university expertise, student talent, research partnerships and professional development for employees.

• The Office of Technology Transfer licensed 13 new business startups last year — among the highest of any university — and took in $25 million in licensing revenue. During the last five years, the university has helped launch 49 startups, more than 70 percent of them in Michigan.

• Industry sponsorships for U-M research reached $43 million last year, up 11.1 percent from fiscal year 2007 and more than 25 percent greater than 2006.

Ann Arbor SPARK is a non-profit economic development organization that promotes business expansion, retention and location throughout Washtenaw County.

In 2008 the organization's efforts led to: 40 new business-expansion projects in the region; $225 million in new investments in the community; the commitment of 2,033 new jobs and the retention of 1,561 jobs; 11 new businesses attracted to the region; support of 41 startups through Ann Arbor SPARK's Business Accelerator; and more than 100 educational, networking and career-enhancement events.

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