While the state has stripped millions of dollars in funding for higher education, Michigan’s three largest research institutions have given that amount, and more, back to the state.

The University Research Corridor, a consortium of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, released a report yesterday crediting the corridor with a $15.2 billion contribution to the state’s economy.

The University of Michigan alone spent $1.24 billion on research in the 2010 fiscal year, and the 2011 Empowering Michigan Economic Impact Report indicates the URC spent $1.8 billion on research in the last year.

Since its inception in 2006, the universities that are part of the URC have awarded an increasing number of high-tech degrees and have grown 13.3 percent from 2006 to 2010. The corridor also fostered 14 start-up companies in 2010 and has produced 71 start-up companies in the past five years.

URC Executive Director Jeff Mason said the findings show the significance of the universities’ collaboration.

“The universities that came together five years ago to create the URC are having a significant impact on Michigan’s economy and the future of our economy here in the state,” Mason said.

Similarly, University President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in an press release issued yesterday that the report shows how much universities can help the state.

“Higher education plays an increasingly significant role in the transformation of our state, region and national economy,” Coleman wrote. “This report is clear evidence of that impact.”

Mason said the URC allows Michigan universities to pool their strengths and enhance research in the state. He added that the URC encourages the three universities to collaborate instead of competing against one another.

The URC institutions are also responsible for a significant amount of job opportunities in Michigan. The universities in the URC had 50,531 full-time employees in the 2010 fiscal year and spent a collective $7.7 billion on operations, according to the report.

Mason said the report shows why funding for universities is so important, especially because the state has seen a number of budget cuts to higher education in recent years. State universities saw a 15-percent reduction in state funds for the 2012 fiscal year.

“Reports like this point out the economic value and the tremendous assets these three institutions and higher institutions are here in the state of Michigan,” said Mason, adding that he hopes the data will influence the state to invest more in higher education in the future.

Mason added that he is impressed with the numbers released in this year’s report.

“I think we were pleasantly surprised to see this continued growth, certainly given the economy and some of the challenges our state faces,” he said.

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