Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Report: URC schools provide innovations, talent for auto industry

The University Research Corridor schools confer more than 3,600 degrees annually in auto-ready careers and have spent more than $300 million on auto-related research in the past five years, according to a new report released today.


The presidents of the three URC universities — Allan Gilmour of Wayne State, Mary Sue Coleman of U-M, and Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State — are attending the Mackinac Conference, where the URC's latest annual report was released today. (Photo by Laura Lessnau, News Service)


View the full report, "The URC's Contributions to Automotive Innovations."
• Highlights from previous URC annual reports.

The independent analysis, "The URC's Contributions to Automotive Innovations," conducted by Anderson Economic Group, is the URC's fifth annual report that quantifies and assesses industry sectors where the universities' research and development play a major role. It highlights the competitive pressures facing the auto industry, particularly in the state of Michigan.

"In order to respond to challenges such as intense competition, increasing consumer demands, and governmental regulations, automakers have continually needed to innovate and improve their products and operations," said Patrick Anderson, CEO of AEG. "Michigan has been home to much of this innovation due to the clustering of auto manufacturers and their suppliers in the state, along with the presence of world-class research universities in the area.

"These top institutions have created and sustained a pool of talent and know-how that has attracted both domestic and international companies to locate their research and development centers in the state. Michigan accounts for 28 percent of all jobs in the automotive sector, with more than 136,000 Michigan residents employed in the industry."

Some highlights from the report:

• The auto industry faces ever-higher demands to improve performance and quality at a lower cost. The URC universities (U-M, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) are involved in every step of the innovation process to meet these challenges.

• The URC universities supply talented workers to the auto industry, conferring more than 3,600 degrees annually in "auto-ready" disciplines.

• Between fiscal years 2007 and 2011, the URC universities spent $300 million on more than 1,400 auto projects. Nearly two-thirds of this research was funded by federal and state governmental agencies.

• Private industry funded 28 percent of all auto research at the URC universities in the past five years, which is nine times the average share of industry funding for all university R&D at these institutions.

• URC researchers have helped automakers improve vehicle quality and safety, improve engine efficiency and performance, and reduce fossil fuel use through new auto approaches.

The research and development performed at the URC universities has allowed innovation to occur in areas such as improved vehicle quality and safety, reduced fossil fuel use, and improved engine performance and efficiency.

Specific examples include: the 2mm project that involved U-M and WSU that limited and controlled the gaps between auto components; connected-vehicle research at U-M and WSU that promises improved vehicle safety by allowing them to "talk" to one another and infrastructure; and biofuels research currently being done by MSU on new types of feedstocks that can be grown more economically to lower fuel costs and improve fuel efficiency.

"The URC universities fulfill two important roles within the auto industry," said Jeff Mason, executive director of the URC. "The first is that they are an important resource for basic and applied research for the auto industry as it faces challenges requiring innovation. Secondly, the URC acts as a pipeline for the highly educated talent that the industry critically needs. It is this talent pipeline coupled with cutting-edge innovation happening at our top research institutions that is really helping to move our state's economy and the industry forward."