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Michigan research universities establish business response network

by Cheryl Roland

Nov. 11, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of a research project.
WMU one of six schools statewide tapped to aid businesses, boost economy.
KALAMAZOO--A collaboration involving Western Michigan University and Michigan's four other research universities will create the first statewide university network in the country to provide a critical new tool for business growth and attraction.

The Michigan Corporate Relations Network was announced Nov. 10 in Lansing. It will create partnerships that will connect state industry to critical university assets in a way that will help the Michigan economy grow and prosper.

Six of the 15 public universities in Michigan make up the network. In addition to WMU, they are Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan's campuses in Ann Arbor and Dearborn. The campuses were chosen because of the broad research and geographic footprint they represent. Collectively, they represent more than $1.8 billion of research expenditures, which in 2009, amounted to 98 percent of the academic research done in Michigan and 99 percent of all patent activity among Michigan universities. The schools enroll more than 160,000 students across the state.

"All of Michigan's research universities are actively engaged in economic development," says Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach who has been working on the M-CRN since its inception. "This new effort will help our research universities work more closely together and develop tools like a statewide database on faculty expertise that will ensure business requests for assistance are funneled to the researchers who are best equipped to assist them."

The M-CRN will use more than $1.8 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Michigan Strategic Fund Board. The overall program funding will exceed $3 million after realizing an industry match of more than $1 million.

"Michigan is one of the top states in the nation for research and development with more than $16 billion in industrial R&D and close to $2 billion in university research,'' notes MSF Board chairperson Michael Finney, president and CEO of the MEDC. "Companies like Google, Facebook and Dell were born on college campuses, and we want to keep helping our leading universities turn the latest developments into jobs."

At WMU, the M-CRN will be housed in the Haworth College of Business and will work collaboratively with the Small Business and Technology Development Center--SBTDC--which is also housed in the business college.

Six initial areas of focus for the M-CRN are:

"Academia's role in the economy is rapidly changing," says Daryl Weinert, M-CRN principal investigator and executive director of the University of Michigan's Business Engagement Center. "It's critical that we recognize businesses as clients and be responsive to their needs."

For more information about the network, contact WMU's Bob Miller at or (269) 387-2073.