LANSING — Michigan’s University Research Corridor, a collaboration of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University officially opened its headquarters here this afternoon.
Created in 2007, the URC was formed to foster cooperation and combine resources between the three research universities in order to help strengthen the state’s economy.
University President Mary Sue Coleman, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Wayne State University President Jay Noren attended the event. Each president spoke passionately about the URC and outlined their goals for the consortium.
Coleman said collaborations between the three universities in the state will ultimately help Michigan’s economy and future, adding that the partnerships extend throughout all levels of the universities.
“That’s deeply satisfying because I firmly believe that we will all rise, we will all challenge each other to be better as we are collaborating to help the state,” Coleman said. “We clearly understand that our future is deeply connected with the state’s future. We believe that we can be a positive force for change and we want to do that.”
Jeff Mason, executive director of the URC, said the consortium was established in order to bring the research occurring at each of the three universities together to help facilitate growth in Michigan’s economy.
“For every company expanding or locating to Michigan, there were companies that were contracting or, at worse, closing,” Mason said.
He explained that expanding companies in the state are in sectors like information technology, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and alternative energy. He added that the universities have a lot of potential to benefit from and assist those sectors.
“By and large those companies recognized that one of the key advantages of Michigan’s location (are) the students, faculty and research available at these three world-class universities,” Mason said.
When the URC was first created, Coleman said that many people were skeptical of the joint venture. Despite the fact that the URC experienced some growing pains, she said administrators at all three institutions are fully behind the consortium and are working hard to better it.
Coleman added that the University doesn’t have to “do it all” and it can rely on the URC for assistance in research developments.
“We can’t do it all,” she said. “We understand we can’t do it all. The world is too competitive. There’s not enough money. We’ve got to focus on what our strengths are.”
The presidents all said they want the URC to be counted among the ranks of some of the top research clusters in the country, including one in Massachusetts that features Harvard University, Tufts University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and another in North Carolina made up of Duke University, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University.
Though the URC is newer than most of the other research clusters around the country, Noren said it is in a position to succeed.
“We have a very complimentary set of three institutions that none of the others have,” Noren said.
He highlighted MSU’s agricultural research, Wayne State’s urban research and the University of Michigan’s wide-breadth of studies in all disciplines.
“When you combine all those things together we really cover the bases like none of the other consortia can,” Noren said.
Another benefit of the URC, Simon said, is the ability for the universities to share facilities. Specifically, Simon said all three institutions could potentially share space in the University of Michigan’s new North Campus Research Complex located on North Campus.
“What the Ann Arbor opportunity presents for all of us and for our faculty and our students is that there is some legitimate space,” Simon said. “There’s also a way it can be a part of this team and to take a Michigan State idea that needs lab space, and it can go there and flourish, and it’s all for our collective good.”
Coleman said in an interview after the meeting that the NCRC will be used as another resource to deepen connections within the URC.
“The fact that we are working together through the URC creates another opportunity for collaborations to develop that might utilize the space of the NCRC,” Coleman said, “and it’s an example of future potential that we have.”