Key initiatives: Research


Under President Mary Sue Coleman’s leadership, U-M has seen a dramatic 77 percent growth in its annual research budget to more than $1.3 billion annually, greater than any other public university, and second among all universities.

This funding has not only enriched graduate and undergraduate education, but also led to a steady stream of advances. Recent developments have ranged from the detection of the Higgs boson — a subatomic particle that will shed light on the origin and ultimate fate of the universe — to pioneering work in stem cells that promises to lead to more effective approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

In addition, several key developments on campus have spurred innovation and productivity in the U-M research community.

In 2007, for example, Coleman launched a program to strengthen U-M’s research environment by hiring 100 new faculty in 25 interdisciplinary “clusters” that allow them to bring together the knowledge, techniques and perspectives of several fields to address the full complexity of challenges in areas ranging from health to sustainability and from robotics to urban studies.

In 2009, U-M acquired Pfizer’s former global research headquarters, located in 2.1 million square feet of office, research and manufacturing space in 28 buildings next to North Campus.

The new North Campus Research Complex, now a community of more than 2,000, is being developed to encourage collaborative approaches to discovery and translation to practice.  Among the activities based there is the Institute for Health Policy and Innovation, which draws on more than 400 faculty from across campus to shed light on the many interrelated forces shaping national and global health policy.

And in 2012, U-M launched MCubed, a two-year $14 million program designed to forge new collaborations and kick-start novel research.  MCubed awarded $60,000 to each of 222 teams of three researchers from at least two disciplines who agreed to collaborate on a proposed project. More than 70 percent of participants reported working with at least one new collaborator, and 90 percent expect to have submitted an external grant proposal based on related work within a year.

Building on that success, the program is now open to external individuals or organizations that have a proposed research topic and are willing to invest $75,000 to fund faculty who choose to work on it.

All of this research activity has led to a rise in the number of ideas with commercial potential. In the last 10 years, U-M has reported 3,246 inventions, including a record 421 last year, and received 900 patents. This has led to 945 option/license agreements and to an average of one new startup based on U-M technology every five weeks.


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