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URC remains nationally competitive, says new benchmarking report

Michigan from space
Michigan from space
The University Research Corridor ranks among the best innovation clusters in the country, according to a new benchmarking report compiled by Anderson Economic Group. 
The annual report shows that URC's member institutions remain competitive as research hubs and as economic engines when compared with university consortia across the U.S., says Jeff Mason, executive director of URC. 
"It reinforces our view that the three schools which make up the University Research Corridor -- Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and the University of Michigan -- really are world-class research institutions, and that the combination of these three universities into this innovation cluster ranks us in the top 10 of clusters anywhere in the U.S.," Mason says. 

The clusters against which the URC benchmarks itself are:
  • Northern California: University of California San Francisco, University of California Berkeley, and Stanford University
  • Southern California: University of Caliornia Los Angeles, University of California San Diego, and University of Southern California
  • Illinois: University of Chicago, Unversity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Northwestern University
  • Massachusetts: Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts
  • North Carolina: Duke, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University
  • Pennsylvania: Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon
Producing high-tech talent
The URC is the largest research university cluster measured by enrollment, with 137,583 students as of fall 2010. The next largest is the Pennsylvania cluster, with just over 120,000 students enrolled. During the 2009-2010 academic year, the URC conferred more degrees overall than any of the other clusters, at 32,157. Only the Illinois cluster granted more advanced degrees. 
Demonstrating a strong commitment to innovation, URC institutions conferred more high-tech and high-demand degrees the kind that move Michigan's economy forward than every other university cluster, except for Pennsylvania. High-tech and high-demand degrees are defined as: architecture, biological and biomedical sciences, communications technologies, computer and information sciences, engineering, mathematics and statistics, physical sciences, certain agricultural degrees, and business disciplines.
"That shows we're not only producing a large quantity of graduates, but some of the highest numbers of high-tech and high-demand degrees and students that knowledge-based companies and high-tech companies need," Mason says. 
More degrees in medicine and biological science come from the URC than any of the comparison university clusters. It ranks in the top three for the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in physical science, agriculture, and natural resources; engineering, math and computer science; and business, management and law. The URC was first in awarding advanced degrees in physical science, agriculture and natural resources.

Growing research spending, startups
Research and development spending at the URC institutions has grown by $425 million since 2007, when the first benchmarking report was generated, to almost $1.9 billion. A portion of that comes from corporate spending on R&D, which the universities are partnering with private sector to accomplish. 
"In terms of what is driving the growth, I think it is the fact that these three institutions are attracting world class faculty and researchers, who are highly competitive in terms of their ability to attract funding from [various] sources," Mason says.
One area of continued focus is the URC's ability to leverage industry engagement. 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.
While the URC sees that as an area to concentrate efforts in improving, their record on startups and technology transfer is still a success story, Mason says. 
"The report shows on average, over the last five years, these three world-class research institutions spun out one new company every month for those 60 months we benchmarked," he says. "I think that's a pretty significant accomplishment."

To view the full report, visit urcmich.org

Image of Michigan from space courtesy the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.
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