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Michigan Research Universities Rank Among Nation’s Best

Michigan’s University Research Corridor institutions continue to competitively rank among the top research innovation clusters in the nation, according to a recent URC report.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s University Research Corridor institutions continue to competitively rank among the top research innovation clusters in the nation in producing the high-tech, high-demand talent required for the 21st century, according to a recent URC report.

The annual report commissioned by the URC, shows the URC's member institutions – Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University – remain competitive as research hubs and as economic engines when compared with university consortia across the U.S., said Jeff Mason, URC executive director.

“The competitive data found in this report, which is a supplement to the 2011 Empowering Michigan Economic Impact Report released late last year, indicates just how truly world class these research universities are and what a tremendous asset they are to the state of Michigan,” he said.

The report compares the performance of the best-known groups of universities in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Pennsylvania against the URC. Each cluster includes three universities from the same geographical area that were selected based upon academic quality, research intensity and size of the institution.

Major findings from the report include:

  • The URC ranks number one in total enrollments with 136,061 students as of fall 2010 and conferred more degrees overall than any of the other clusters at 32,157, second only to Illinois in number of advanced degrees granted.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the URC institutions conferred more high-tech and high-demand degrees (18,277) than any other university cluster except for Pennsylvania. High-demand degrees – those in business, computer science and engineering – are considered most sought after by employers.

“The high-tech and high-demand degrees are critically important to driving Michigan’s economy forward,” Mason said. “These types of degrees prepare students to work in Michigan’s high-tech industries and provide the expertise that businesses need so they don’t need to look elsewhere. This pool of top talent is also a draw for businesses looking to locate within our state.”

In addition, the report found:

  • Total research and development expenditures by the seven university clusters totaled approximately $13.7 billion in 2010, making up about 22 percent of research and development expenditures by all U.S. universities. In 2011, the URC had the fourth largest research and development expenditures of the seven university clusters at nearly $1.9 billion.
  • Between 2009 and 2010, the URC increased total expenditures on research and development by 8.3 percent, which is the third highest percentage increase of the university clusters in the midst of a difficult state economy. This growth rate was higher than the average increase among all U.S. universities.
  • The success of academic research and development activities is often evaluated in terms of technology transfer to the private sector. According to the report, the URC ranked fourth in U.S. patents granted, and fifth in invention disclosures, licenses and options granted, and licensing revenue ($37 million), when comparing its 2006-2010 average annual technology transfer activities to the peer university clusters. The URC is tied for fifth in number of start-ups it has helped to create.

"Over the last five years these three world-class research institutions spun out one new company every month for those 60 months we benchmarked," said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. "I think that's a pretty significant accomplishment, not only because of the economic impact, but that we’re able to amass the best expertise to create solutions to real-world problems.”

“The whole point of benchmarking ourselves against the best in the nation is to help us develop strategies to improve,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “All three of us have invested in our technology transfer organizations, for example, and we’re working diligently to turn our research into businesses and jobs for Michigan’s citizens.”

Allan Gilmour, president of Wayne State, said the report highlights that the three universities are on the right path.

“Our URC institutions have a lot to be proud of. Our combined research and economic impact continue to help Michigan move in the right direction. We must continue to work and innovate for the long term success of our state.”

To view the full report, go to