THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS: Michigan universities must use research to develop new industries - Higher Education


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THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS: Michigan universities must use research to develop new industries

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by Associated Press

Michigan’s three research universities are worth a strong investment from the state if they continue to create new economic activity that leads to new jobs.

Indeed, the university presidents might say, “Bring it on.”

Last spring the presidents of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University made the rounds urging leaders and lawmakers to recognize their status as a “research corridor” and the economic catalyst they can and do provide.

Earlier this month, the three research universities released a study they commissioned on their economic impact on the state.

It’s not small.

The Anderson Economic Group’s four-month review found that the schools combine to create nearly 69,000 Michigan jobs and produced nearly $13 billion in net economic benefit in 2006.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon noted last week that the schools had not intended to release their report while the Legislature was embroiled in its struggle to finalize a 2008 budget.

Nonetheless, the timing provides a perfect opportunity to remind lawmakers of the vast potential these schools have to help transform Michigan’s manufacturing-reliant economy into a more knowledge-based, internationally competitive place to do business.

The university presidents, for their part, say they are not looking to make an end run around the state’s 12 additional universities. They say they want a separate line in the state budget and separate (higher) standards that go with it.

It’s a compelling argument, particularly when they start comparing the impact of Michigan State, Michigan and Wayne State with other nationally acclaimed university research centers such as the Research Triangle in North Carolina or Boston’s 128 Corridor, which includes Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Yes, our Michigan schools are in the same league.

Certainly there is more to do in developing that image.

And more importantly, there is plenty to do in building on efforts to “transfer technology” from the academic setting to the business setting.

But by focusing intensely on opportunities to develop new technology and partner with businesses that can bring such technology to the marketplace, these schools can indeed help create jobs.

And they can help Michigan once again become a state known for cutting edge industry.

In their 11th hour budget frenzy, lawmakers must not lose sight of this opportunity.

–Associated Press



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