When Pfizer announced it would close its research site in northeastern Ann Arbor in early 2007, the shock resonated throughout Michigan. When no private companies emerged to purchase the 174-acre, 30-building campus, the university stepped forward — and in June 2009 bought the site for $108 million.
The goal: transform it into a bustling hub of interdisciplinary research, public-private partnerships, and activity to strengthen and diversify Michigan’s struggling economy.
In the five years since, leaders, faculty and staff from across campus have worked to fulfill that promise through strategic collaboration. The North Campus Research Complex stands as a signature achievement of President Mary Sue Coleman’s tenure.
Today, more than 2,000 people work at the NCRC, drawn from 10 university schools and colleges, three established companies, the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare Center and 18 startup companies. Many of them perform cutting-edge research in multidisciplinary groups focused on cancer, heart disease, critical care, new health technologies, advanced transportation, bioinformatics and health care innovation.
The NCRC also allows the university to centralize key research support functions, from shared “core” facilities like advanced microscropes and DNA sequencing to clinical trial administration and technology transfer. It’s also the university’s front door to interaction with industry, through the Business Engagement Center, and a popular event space.
The NCRC’s focus on quality of life for those who work there — from food and bus service to child care, art exhibits and a wellness center — has led to high satisfaction among faculty and staff.
Soon, some of the open land at NCRC will transform into a testing ground for advanced vehicles, and more research facilities will come online.
In just five years, the availability of space at NCRC has spurred the creation of more than 330 new jobs, expanded the university’s research capacity, and brought new teams together. It has gone from vacant to vibrant.