By Steve Zoski, Daily News Editor
Published May 21, 2012
Just 18 days before he becomes the longest-serving U.S. congressman in history, Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) stopped by Ann Arbor to visit local businesses and participate in a press conference praising a new report that suggests research at an alliance of three of the state’s universities is competitive with research at similar three-way partnerships between universities throughout the country.
More like this
Dingell joined Stephen Forrest, the University’s vice president for research; Jeff Mason, executive director of the URC; Kenneth Nisbet, executive director of the University Tech Transfer; and Laura Schrader, CEO of 3D Biomatrix — a biomedical company that grew from the University and has developed three-dimensional cell cultures — to hold the press conference at the North Campus Research Complex.
The press conference discussed the findings of an Anderson Economic Group report called “Benchmarking Michigan’s URC.” The report explores the state’s University Research Corridor, an alliance forged in 2006 between the University, Michigan State University and Wayne State University in order to accelerate economic development.
The report compared the URC with six similar alliances including clusters of universities in northern California, southern California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
The URC ranks first in student enrollment and number of degrees granted — 32,157 in the 2009-10 academic year — and awards the second most high-tech and high-demand degrees, according to the report. The report also found that the URC is in the lower half of peer groups for technology transfer activities, in which university research receives patents and transfers into the private sector for commercialization.
Dingell joked before saying that the University has spearheaded American innovation.
“My remarks are going to be extremely brief at this time, and I will hope that our participants in this conference are going to handle everything so that my remarks will be held to a minimum to inflict the minimum discomfort on my audience,” Dingell said. “Having said these things, the University of Michigan is a tremendous engine for economic development. What this country needs to do is what the president has said: ‘out-innovate, out-compete, out-educate.’ ”
Dingell said the URC is critical to the future of the U.S. and its place in the world.
“Places like the University of Michigan or the University Research Corridor in Michigan are going to do the things we have to have done to have success,” he said. “To see to it that the United States continues to retain its rightful place and expands that place in terms of seeing to it that we produce jobs, the technology and the opportunities that are going to make this country the leader in the world.”
Dingell added that the URC will continue to help create the jobs of the future, including “high-tech” jobs that are essential to human development.
Forrest said that improving the regional economy will affect Michigan and, in turn, the entire United States as well.
“What I see around us is we’re on the edge of an explosion in innovation,” Forrest said. “I believe this explosion will drive the revitalization and the diversification of the regional economy that will have ripple effects … across the entire great lakes region and really across the entire nation.”
Forrest added that the URC acts as a catalyst for the regional economy and is at the same level as the best in the country, according to the benchmark study.
“The conditions are right for this ecosystem that we’re building. The infrastructure is in place, the connections are there. The dynamic innovation ecosystem ... is certainly being established right here in Michigan — and the URC is a key element of that ecosystem,” Forrest said.
Forrest said private sector collaboration is important and added that there are already plans to build an industrial park.
“We want to merge our efforts with the private sector so we can start an industrial park here in Ann Arbor that will be mostly based on technology, but it will be open-source for all comers from around the region and around the world.” he said. “I believe that Michigan is now gaining the recognition it deserves as a hotbed of innovation that will rival and perhaps even surpass Silicon Valley.”
Prior to the press conference, Dingell visited Downtown Home & Garden at 210 S. Ashley St. and Lily Grace Cosmetics at 306 S. Main St.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the event, Dingell said the merchants he spoke with earlier in the day were concerned with healthcare.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje was scheduled to attend but was absent. The city council votes on the budget today.