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In 2020, EntryPoint had great conversations with 40+ thought leaders across the country on The Cackle and we all want more!  So in 2021, we are continuing the conversation with those guests to dig a little deeper into topics that matter. Like the impact of research institutions on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Keep Cackling with Dr. Britany Affolter-Caine, PhD from Michigan’s University Research Corridor.

The road from an idea or invention to a fully formed company that delivers products or services, creates jobs and drives a regional economy is long, complex and involves many different people, organizations and resources to come together. This is why we tend to refer to a region’s entrepreneurial activities and players as an “ecosystem.” As part of this complex network, Michigan’s University Research Corridor – an alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University – plays a critical role that includes research and development, technology transfer and talent development.

In 2020, I talked about the impact of research institutions on the entrepreneurial ecosystem with Emily on an episode of The Cackle, but let’s dig deeper the world of research.

Talent Pipeline

The impact of research institutions on the entrepreneurial ecosystem is clear. Each year our universities educate more than 156,000 students and graduate more than 36,000, ready for the 21st Century economy. One in five of the 1.2 million URC alumni in the world – including the half who live and work in Michigan – are entrepreneurs who founded one or more companies during their careers. And today’s URC students access a growing set of educational opportunities that provide expertise and resources to support their entrepreneurial interests and endeavors.

Innovation Hubs

The URC universities conduct more than $2.5 billion in research and development each year – 92% of Michigan’s total – which positions Michigan in the nation’s Top Ten states year-over-year. This robust research activity translates into foundational innovations, technologies, expertise and talent that feeds existing and startup companies in key Michigan industries.

As a leading engine for innovation in Michigan and the Great Lakes region, the URC ranks as one of the nation’s top university innovation clusters, with peers in California’s Silicon Valley, Massachusetts’ Route 128 and North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Since 2006, the URC benchmarks itself with seven other clusters on key talent, R&D and commercialization metrics in an effort to compare itself to the best of the best. The comparison shows that the URC consistently is a leader in talent development, strongly competitive in R&D and successful in licensing innovation as a means for transferring innovation to the marketplace.

impact of research institutions

Since 2002, the URC universities have launched 266 startup companies, of which 103 were founded in the past five years. But startups are only part of technology transfer in our ecosystem. In the case of the URC universities together, licensing technology has been used more often relative to its peer clusters, supporting many existing companies in Michigan. In the past five years, the URC universities have licensed 1,262 innovations – many to companies here in Michigan.

Serving the needs of inventors and entrepreneurs

To further support the efficient transfer of critical discoveries to the market, URC universities are at the forefront of implementing innovative programs that target the needs of inventors and entrepreneurs. These include access to entrepreneurial expertise, C-suite management and leadership talent, and patient capital. Some of these programs are supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, an important state partner to universities in technology transfer.

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The Fight Against COVID-19

The uniquely valuable power of research universities was made clear by the global COVID pandemic. Thanks to decades of federal and state investment in research universities such as the URC institutions, the world was able to leverage a robust research infrastructure, expertise and new knowledge to develop a suite of vaccines in record time. The URC universities are part of this effort, underscoring the competitive advantage of having these three world-class research universities in Michigan.

URC institutions led COVID-related research and innovation in the form of running clinical trials, developing medical devices and treatments, and supporting frontline healthcare workers through technology and training. In technology transfer, the URC universities quickly readied more than 65 new COVID-related technologies for license, spanning from new models for PPE to testing assays to antiviral therapeutics.  

The URC universities are key partners in the greater Michigan entrepreneurial ecosystem and contribute to Michigan’s competitiveness. They truly are an engine driving the state’s economic success.

About Dr. Britany Affolter-Caine, PhD & Michigan’s University Research Corridor

Britany Affolter-Caine, PhD is executive director of Michigan’s University Research Corridor, one of the nation’s top academic research clusters and the leading engine for innovation in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. An alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, the URC is focused on increasing economic prosperity and connecting Michigan to the world.

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