Dan Rhodes founded Ann Arbor-based Compendia Bioscience, developed from a program at the University of Michigan. The company was sold to California-based Life Technologies. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)
Michigan’s three largest universities contributed $16.6 billion to the state’s economy but the number of start-up companies cultivated by the University Research Corridor is not keeping pace with its seven national peers, according to a report being released today.
The economic footprint of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University is up 30 percent since 2007, the year of the first assessment of the URC, formed to collaborate on research, take inventions from labs to marketplace, and attract new jobs.
The annual report also shows that the URC has generated more than 66,000 direct and indirect jobs across the state, and $6 billion in wages of staff and alumni that added $449 million to state tax revenues.
“That impact stretches from the U.P. all the way to the southern border of the state; it’s not confined to Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Detroit,” said Jeff Mason, URC executive director. “The alliance between these three universities is the engine that drives innovation in the Great Lakes region.”
This year’s report, prepared by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group, included a new ranking known as Innovation Power Ranking, which evaluates research and development spending, research commercialization and talent production.
The URC ranked second when compared with the seven other major university research clusters it measures itself against, such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, California’s Innovation Hubs and Massachusetts’ Route 128 Corridor.
“This report shows the role higher education plays both as a source of talent and an economic engine for our state,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.
“There is no doubt that the University Research Corridor and all of our state’s universities are one of our greatest economic assets in helping Michigan create more good jobs.”
The only area where the URC declined was among the start-up companies it has cultivated in comparison with the seven other clusters nationwide.
The consortium fell from fifth place in 2006 to last among its peers in 2012, in a five-year average of start-up companies it has spun out.
Mason said the number of start-up companies has not dropped since the URC began tracking its progress.
Since 2002, the URC has cultivated 163 start-up companies, including 71 in the past five years.
The average has been fairly consistent over that time, Mason said — about 14 annually or a little more than one spinoff a month.
By contrast, the top peer university research cluster was in Southern California, producing an average of 35 companies a year between 2008-12.
Among the start-up companies of the URC was Compendia Bioscience, an Ann Arbor-based firm that spun out of U-M in 2006 when Dan Rhodes was a graduate student.
Rhodes and nearly 50 employees offer a genomic cancer research database to research scientists and pharmaceutical companies trying to find better interventions and personalized treatment.
The company was acquired last year by California-based Life Technologies Corp., and Rhodes is now head of medical sciences informatics.
The genesis of the product and business plan was at U-M.
“The university owned all the technology,” Rhodes said, “but they had the foresight to realize it would develop in the marketplace and they helped facilitate that.”