Q&A with University of Michigan
Marvin Parnes, Assoc. Vice President for Research
Daryl Weinert, Executive Director, Business Engagement Center
Ken Nisbet, Executive Director of Technology Transfer
Lawrence Molnar, Director, EDA University Center Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy (IRLEE)
Q. President Obama set the clear goal of increasing R&D investments to 3 percent of GDP. How will this level of commitment enhance the great work being done at universities around the country?
A. Universities are the pipeline for innovation in America. A stable R&D budget, with appropriate increases year-to-year, is essential for universities to maintain and grow leading edge facilities and give emerging generations of scholars a place to innovate and create the new technologies that drive economic growth and competitiveness. Federal investment in R&D is the primary source of funding for the university research that generates the vast majority of inventions successfully licensed to start-ups and existing firms. Training of talented scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs is more important than ever. Through programs such as the Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering, the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Business School, and the TechStart summer internship program, Michigan and other universities are providing opportunities for students to generate successful ventures as part of their education. In recent years, Michigan and other institutions have expanded their research activity with industry and corporate partners, an increasingly important arena for innovation and training. This partnering is a key strategy for regional technology based economic development. Without robust federal funding, universities are less able to accomplish any of these critical undertakings.
Q. Many universities today have special innovation and entrepreneurship programs, with particular emphasis on incubators. Discuss the impact on job creation.
A. Three years ago, U-M Tech Transfer launched its Venture Center to broaden and improve start-up creation services and resources. Recently, we added our "Accelerator" to the Venture Center, a full suite of business formation services and resources, including access to incubator facilities and equipment, to prepare emerging new start-up ventures for sustainable success. This provides a central location to gather and share resources, a critical mass of venture services, a community center for entrepreneurial talent, and an organized system for enhanced venture creation. U-M Tech Transfer has launched ninety-three startups in the past ten years, a record that places U-M within the top ten of all universities. We want the Venture Center to increase our pipeline of new job-creating ventures, but, more importantly, we are focusing on enhancing the quality of our new venture opportunities to produce high value jobs and sustainable ventures.
EDA-FUNDED TOOL 'Know Your Region'
The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) recently released the "Know Your Region" website. For several years, the EDA-funded Know Your Region (KYR) program has offered training and resources to economic development practitioners and policymakers around the country. With the launch of www.KnowYourRegion.org, users can stay abreast of the latest trends in strategic planning, cluster development, regional innovation and economic competitiveness.
The Center for Business Acceleration and Incubation Studies (CBAIS), part of U-M's Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy, has conducted two national studies on business incubation, both funded by EDA. The1997 study, Impact of Incubator Investments, concluded that business incubation is indeed a strategic job creation tool. On average 468 jobs were directly attributable to a business incubator at a cost of $1,109 per job.
U-M is currently partnering with the National Business Incubation Association,
University at Albany-State University of New York, and Cybergroup, Inc.
to finish a national study of business incubation best practices. The
current study will help delineate how best to structure business incubation
programs so that the maximum number of jobs can be created.
For more than 25 years, the University of Michigan has been involved in business incubation and has helped communities conduct market and feasibility studies for business incubators. CBAIS works to ensure that current information on business incubation informs these studies so that resulting incubators follow best practices and are better positioned to generate sustainable new ventures and create jobs.
Q: The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which President Obama signed into law recently, strengthens the Administration's capacity to elevate regional innovation cluster development as a key driver of future jobs growth. Universities are regarded as important partners in cluster development. What is their role and what is the impact on local economies?
A: To function well in a cluster, interfaces among the partners are critical. The University of Michigan has developed a comprehensive approach to managing interactions between the university and the business community. Universities have numerous assets that can contribute to business growth and economic development—faculty expertise, new technology, high-tech facilities, student and alumni talent, continuing education programs student project opportunities, and more. The Business Engagement Center at the University of Michigan connects companies to these U-M resources. The Business Engagement Center also provides a focal point for the university’s relationship with chambers of commerce, economic development groups, trade associations, governmental units and other schools within the region to ensure that the lines of communication are robust and that the level of coordination is high.
Q: The commercialization of technology developed in university and federally-funded labs is key to sustainable economic recovery. EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is promoting interagency initiatives to help bring new technologies, products, processes, and services out of labs and into the marketplace. Where has the focus on commercialization been most effective and what are some of the best practices you have seen?
A: Over the last ten years, the University of Michigan has made great progress in increasing the number of innovations that reach the marketplace. Our success is the result of some competitive advantages and some innovative practices that work well within our environment. These include:
- High quality inventions resulting from diverse large scale, leading-edge research
- A pro-active, encouraging environment for tech transfer
- Programs to attract, direct and motivate several levels of talent to accelerate our assessment, development and marketing efforts, leveraging our regional partners and international pool of alumni
- Early stage internal investments, matched by external state and foundation funds, in translational research and “gap funding” activities. The focus is on assessing commercialization hurdles and applying professional resources augmented with student talent to address these issues.
- Providing a focus on critical competencies, as with our Venture Center for venture development. This provides a “hub” for entrepreneurs and venture partners to engage the university for start-up opportunities, an integrated set of resources managed by experienced professionals, and a system to partner with other university, regional and national organizations to foster venture and job creation.
Q: As Director of The University of Michigan’s EDA University Center, what difference is this program making at your university and the many other institutions that are part of this network?
A: The current economic climate gives the higher education system an opportunity and responsibility to be engaged in economic development, technical assistance, and job creation. The EDA University Center demonstrates the University of Michigan’s commitment to serving the public as an “engaged university,” a goal of this premier public research institution championed by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and one that is shaping the culture of the institution.
Our University Center has been the lead in many demonstration projects that facilitate economic recovery and transformation, such as the EDA Community Economic Adjustment Program. Through these projects, our ideas, processes, and resources are used to develop replicable and scalable models for other institutions as they also work to build more resilient, innovative communities. Our partnerships with other university centers across the region allow us to share resources and ideas, and work together to enhance our collective capacity to serve our communities.
Nationally, the EDA University Center Program (PDF) provides a network of centers across the U.S. opening access to the expertise, knowledge, research, intellectual property and resources of the nation's higher education infrastructure to communities, regions, companies and individuals. Through organizations such as the University Economic Development Association, the Educational Association of University Centers and the Association of University Technology Managers, knowledge, experience and best practice are discussed and shared, contributing to continuous improvement and increased efficiency and effectiveness in our work.
Universities Can Drive Innovation and the Economy
Special to EDA from University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp
The U.S. economy of late has been driven by a series of
bubbles. In the late 1990s, we had a technology bubble.
When it burst, it was painful. In the late 2000s, we had
a financial services and housing bubble. When that burst,
it was nearly cataclysmic, and we're still living through
There are two things essential to finding our way out of
this bubble cycle: to produce a steady stream of new jobs
based on new ideas that address society's biggest problems
and to have an education system that prepares students
for jobs that probably won't even be created until they've
finished their schooling.
In our recent book, "Engines of Innovation - The Entrepreneurial
University in the 21st Century," Buck Goldstein and I assert
that universities can help propel our economy to a prosperous
and more egalitarian future. Universities – specifically
research universities – are the most meaningful response
to President Obama's "Sputnik moment."
Universities occupy a unique position – somewhere between government, religion
and private enterprise. Even in these tight economic times, universities have
a lot of financial and intellectual resources. They also have brilliant faculty
members and a generation of students committed to making a difference in the
Universities thrive on big problems, and society has plenty of them. In the words of Stanford’s President John Hennessy, “If the universities don’t work on the world’s biggest problems, who will?”
As David Brooks said in his recent column, “The Talent Magnet,” universities provide a model for how nations (and presumably regions) should drive job growth – by creating an entrepreneurial environment and attracting talent. The presence of a university in a region provides a head start on this process.
But we can further increase the impact of universities by building on their unique culture. Here are some ideas for going about that:
Make innovation inclusive
The entrepreneurial university is often based on the liberal arts education model, which has fueled American innovation for centuries. The study of the humanities and social sciences are critical to the skills and worldview needed by successful entrepreneurs in all sectors.
We should broaden the definition of innovation and entrepreneurship to include the whole university rather than to a handful of scientist-inventors. The great problems to be addressed are not limited to technical challenges like diabetes and solar energy, but include maladies like racism, poverty and conflict. These huge challenges are in many cases better described by the humanities and fine arts than in other areas of the academy.
Let the community set the tactics
Innovation needs to be bottom-up. Leaders aren’t close enough to the actual ideas and talent to make the right judgments, and when we do make choices, we sometimes close out ideas and talent that might ultimately be the best.
The entrepreneurial university puts culture ahead of structure. It ignores traditional institutional silos, and it doesn’t spend time developing new programs, institutes and departments. It does focus on developing an environment that thrives on problem solving, celebrates risk taking and accepts a certain amount of failure as a necessary component of the learning process.
Partnering with entrepreneurs
Thoughtfully constructed, partnerships with entrepreneurs from outside the academy can add to the scope and capacity of the university without asking academics to take something away from their traditional scholarship in order to look beyond the walls of the campus.
Emphasize innovation and execution.
The entrepreneurial university values both innovation and execution. But innovation without execution has no impact, and academic communities are often less comfortable with the latter. Universities that get this right will see the highest payoff.
America COMPETES Act Helps EDA Support Clusters that Drive Business Activity and Job Growth
The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which
President Obama recently signed into law, strengthens EDA's
capacity to elevate regional innovation cluster development
as a key driver of future jobs growth and accelerate the
commercialization of new technologies, products, processes,
COMPETES supports EDA's Jobs and Innovation Partnership
framework through the establishment of a Regional Innovation
Program to encourage and support the development of regional
innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters
and science and research parks. It also formally establishes
EDA's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the
Department of Commerce to foster innovation and the commercialization
of new technologies, products, processes, and services
with the goal of promoting productivity and economic growth
in the United States.
The new law advances the Obama administration's innovation
agenda by doubling funding to our nation's basic research
agencies; boosting investment in high-risk, high-reward
energy technology development; and improving science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
In a recent statement, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
noted, "These innovative programs and initiatives at the
U.S. Department of Commerce, with the help of the America
COMPETES Act, will help create jobs here at home, make
our businesses more competitive abroad and strengthen the
foundation of our economy."
The full text of the law can be found here.
Process Improvement Update
In October 2009, EDA announced several important changes to its grant application and review process. These changes built upon EDA's existing reputation for superior customer service, ensuring our stakeholders that EDA's grant-making process be as efficient, transparent, and competitive as possible. Staff in EDA's Regional Offices recently completed the first round of reviews for applications submitted since the launch of the improvement initiative. We are happy to report that each Regional Office received a number of competitive and highly competitive applications for funding and informed all applicants of their status within the 20 days promised from the December 15 application deadline. Overall, EDA received 120 applications.
March 10, 2011 is the deadline for funding cycle 2.
EDA Funding Supports the Innovation
Economy in Illinois
Submitted by EDA Chicago Regional Office
Role of University Technology Park at IIT
The success of the U.S. innovation economy is rooted
in the drive of entrepreneurial individuals to create
products that serve human needs, and provide themselves
with financial rewards and the satisfaction of developing
successful enterprises in the process. Since the 1980's,
the U.S. has attempted to accelerate the innovation process
by supporting technology transfer from university research
laboratories to support innovation in the market place. However,
in the Chicagoland area, one missing element for technology
development was the availability of affordable, flexible
laboratory space for the incubation of nascent technologies.
On September 14, 2009, the Illinois Institute of Technology
(IIT) was awarded a $4.5 million ARRA grant by the Economic
Development Administration (EDA) to refurbish a building
from the 1940's that will be used as a technology incubator.
It was one of the largest grants ever given by the EDA
for a technology incubator. This funding, combined
with a $2 million matching grant from the State of Illinois,
will enable the University Technology Park at IIT (UTP)
to complete 28,000 square feet of Incubator space that
will house up to 30 start-up companies in the biotechnology,
clean/green technology, IT, food technology, diagnostics,
and other high-tech industries. The design of the
technology Incubator space accommodates 15 wet-labs,
9 dry-labs and 6 offices plus a shared equipment room
with autoclave, glass washer, freezer, refrigerator,
ice maker and centrifuge. UTP began construction
in September of 2011 with a projected completion date
of May, 2011.
In addition to the EDA, the Incubator’s strategic partners include all levels of government--state, federal, and local-- that have provided capital and operations funding for the park, while the Illinois Institute of Technology, the host institution, has provided the buildings and land. UTP also has benefited from partnerships with many non-profit associations and economic development organizations including the Illinois Biotechnology Organization, Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, World Business Chicago, and the Illinois Venture Capital Association.
University Technology Park at IIT plays a significant role in fostering technology transfer of innovations to the marketplace and the economy. Says David Baker, Vice President of External Affairs and UTP Executive Director, “We developed University Technology Park (UTP) to create an innovation ecosystem in Chicago. University Technology Park has consciously sought to support both university-based and non-university start-up companies. Our key role has been to attract and concentrate government and private funding to build the sophisticated laboratory facilities needed for life sciences and clean technology start-up and growth companies in Illinois. By doing this, we have succeeded in keeping companies in the Chicago region—for lack of available, affordable laboratory space.”
Regarding the Incubator’s economic impact, a feasibility assessment indicated that technology-based start-ups average 6 to 10 employees and generate higher average salaries at various educational levels than many other types of start-ups. Illinois currently projects such positions to generate salaries averaging $60,000 to $75,000, in excess of the median household income areas adjacent to the project site. When full, the Incubator will house 30 companies with over 100 employees.
The project’s job creation impact will not be limited to highly educated employees. Direct and indirect jobs will be created as the Incubator feeds growing companies into graduation space also located in the technology park. IIT and the City Colleges of Chicago will collaborate in identifying job opportunities in these companies and training local residents and others to fill them.
More details about UTP and its current client companies can be found at www.universitytechnologypark.com.
Federal Funding Opportunity
US Labor Dept Encourages Applications for Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program
The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced a solicitation for grant applications under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program. The Labor Department will award approximately $500 million this year through the program and a total of $2 billion over the next four years.
Grants will support the development and improvement
of postsecondary programs of two years or less that
use evidence-based or innovative strategies to prepare
students for successful careers in growing and emerging
industries. The program will be administered by the
Labor Department in coordination with the U.S. Department
Click here to read the full Solicitation for Grant Applications.
EDA & IEDC Launch RestoreYourEconomy.org to Support Regional Economic Recovery Efforts
From U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary
Brian P. McGowan
McGowan led the White House National Incident Command
Economic Solutions Team, charged to help communities
and regions mitigate the impacts of the BP Oil Spill.
This initiative is part of EDA's goal to support
collaborative regional innovation to promote sustainable
job growth and strengthen communities that have suffered
disproportionate economic and job losses to become
more competitive in the global economy.
Through our work in the Gulf Coast's recovery efforts,
I had the opportunity to meet with community leaders
along the Gulf who spent the last five years rebuilding
their local economy in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina, only to turn around and face another disaster
with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
As part of the White House National Incident Command
(NIC) Economic Solutions Team, which we were asked
to form to help communities and regions mitigate
the impacts of the oil spill, I visited with and
listened to many of these leaders who were seeking
solutions to help ensure the long-term resiliency
of their community's economy.
After the initial emergency response and when the
media spotlight goes away – the hard work of economic
recovery begins. In retrospect, and as a former
city and county government official, I think about
how a tool designed to facilitate communication and
collaboration would have been so valuable to those
communities as they took on this daunting task. The
difficult work completed and lessons learned in restoring
local economies in this region of the country should
serve as a powerful tool to other communities who
are dealing with disasters or making the plans to
ensure they are prepared when future disasters hit.
Now, I'm pleased to announce that there is such a
tool. The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA)
partnered with the International Economic Development
Council (IEDC) to launch RestoreYourEconomy.org,
a website that provides critical information for
public and private stakeholders seeking to rebuild
their local economies after a disaster, as well,
as assistance to prepare their business community
for a future disasters. The portal is a vital one-stop
shop of resources, tools, events and an opportunity
to connect with other cities, states and regions.
In fact, is was recently used extensively in Australia as communities there were
dealing with severe flooding.
RestoreYourEconomy.org enables the
sharing of best practices in making preparations to reduce the economic consequences
of a disaster. It also provides practical guidance and post-recovery tools to
promote investment, to retain local employment, and restore lost jobs.
I encourage communities that have been affected by a disaster or those working
to be prepared for future disasters to take advantage of this invaluable resource.
EDA-funded Indiana University
Innovation Index Releases 2011 Results
The Indiana University Business Research Center's Innovation
Index helps regions determine their capacity for innovation,
providing actionable data to guide critical public and private
investments and to formulate effective development strategies
that foster economic growth.
The IBRC provides this and other regional assessment tools as part of an EDA
funded project for assessing regional competitiveness in America.
Click here for more information.
Locals, federal official meet as University of Toledo vies for $46M solar energy grant
Wednesday, Dr. Jacobs was one of the many local officials to meet with John Fernandez,
an assistant secretary of commerce for economic development in the Obama Administration.
Mr. Fernandez, in Ohio to stump for President Obama's Tuesday night address, was
the keynote speaker Wednesday night at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of
Governments' annual general assembly meeting at the Holiday Inn French Quarter
in Perrysburg Township.
College of Southern Idaho gets $4.4 million for new
The College of Southern Idaho received a $4.4 million federal [EDA] grant Wednesday
[January 19] to help bring a nearly $7 million technology center to Twin Falls. The
Applied Technology and Innovation Center will provide a consolidated home for
CSI's renewable energy programs.