Michigan’s University Research Corridor remains competitive with the nation’s top university research clusters, contributing $16.8 billion to the state’s economy, according to the 8th Annual Economic Impact & Benchmark Report released Tuesday.

The URC, an alliance of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, focuses on increasing economic prosperity and connecting Michigan to the world.

The report, prepared by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group, compared the URC’s performance to peer university innovation clusters, including those in Northern California, Southern California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania.

Strength in research, innovation and talent resulted in the URC ranking second among the nation’s most respected schools in the Innovation Power Ranking for the second year in a row. Only the Southern California Cluster — UCLA, UC-San Diego and USC — ranked higher.

The Innovation Power Ranking developed by AEG for the 2014 report gives an even clearer picture of the URC’s success in areas that help boost Michigan’s economy, from innovative research that gives Michigan businesses an edge to helping students gain the skills they need to compete in high-demand fields.

Michigan’s economy continues to benefit from the URC universities. The $16.8 billion net impact in Michigan is up from $16.6 billion the previous year and $12.9 billion reported in the first report published in 2007. For every dollar the state invested in the three URC universities, it saw $21 in economic benefits, according to the report. 

The report also indicates growth in research and development at the three leading research universities that comprise Michigan’s URC. Its $2.12 billion in R&D expenditures in 2013 marks an increase of 51 percent since 2007, when the URC first began benchmarking against the other innovation clusters. That rate of increase far surpassed the average for other university clusters, as well as the average for all U.S. institutions, according to the report.

“With a more than 50 percent increase in these areas in just eight years, URC universities are becoming a force to be reckoned with in developing new technologies and innovations,” said URC Executive Director Jeff Mason.

“Top ranking research universities in our state have a consistent and tangible impact on our state’s economy, investing in jobs, and research and development across the state of Michigan,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel.

The URC also ranked first in the talent composite score, a measurement of total number of degrees conferred and total number of high-tech degrees. The URC conferred 32,563 degrees including 2,186 medical degrees, the highest number of advanced degrees in the medicine and biological science fields of any peer university innovation cluster.

“Employers continually tell us that one of the main factors in site selection for any organization is a strong pool of highly educated individuals,” said Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. “URC universities play a vital role in molding young talent into the leaders of high-tech, in-demand fields of the future.”

Since 2002, the three URC universities have cultivated 173 startup companies, including 64 that have formed in the past five years.

“URC members’ world-class research, both on- and off-campus, positions Michigan as a global innovation leader,” Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon said. “The talent we attract and develop, from undergraduates up to distinguished faculty members, drives our communities and state to a higher level of competitiveness.”

The report also includes a breakdown of the URC’s economic impact in 10 regions statewide, including the effect of the additional money URC alumni living in Michigan earn because of their university degrees.

As of summer 2014, the URC universities had nearly 1.2 million alums worldwide. More than 600,000 live in Michigan accounting for more than 9 percent of the state’s population over age 24.