School:University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

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Overview—Leadership & Advocacy

The University of Michigan leadership views entrepreneurship as one of its most important priorities, with active involvement from all levels of leadership, starting with president Mark Schlissel. With over 15 different, self-sustainable entrepreneurship departments on campus, students have access to faculty from many different schools in order to pursue their entrepreneurial goals. 

From 2002-2014 The University of Michigan and its president, Mary Sue Coleman, have played leadership and advocacy roles in promoting innovation and research commercialization at the nation’s universities. The university has prioritized innovation and entrepreneurship’s role in economic development prior to the development of the NACIE commitment letter; for the last several years, major strategic priorities for the University of Michigan include stimulating economic development and growth in Michigan and beyond through innovation and entrepreneurship.

President Coleman’s decision to spearhead the NACIE commitment letter is a natural extension of the innovation and commercialization culture at U-M. Even so, the NACIE Letter has had a “conscious raising” effect on the innovative culture at U-M. Innovation and commercialization is a key focus of the activities of the president, executive officers, faculty, and staff at U-M. The outcome of this focus is reflected in the expanding array of programs, policies, relationships, and activities aimed at spurring innovation and entrepreneurship on campus, in the region, and across the nation. As part of U-M’s strategy, many aspects of this commitment are highlighted regularly in university outreach and communications, ranging from speeches by senior executives to a central website accessible from the university’s home page.

U-M has also constituted a Communications Team to articulate a comprehensive strategy for these various innovation and commercialization initiatives. The team includes the Vice President for Research, the VP for Communications, the senior government relations officer, and Mr. David Lampe, Executive Director of Research Communications, in the Office of the Vice President for Research. Mr. Lampe is also charged with coordinating all efforts related to innovation and entrepreneurship at U-M. 

The “Innovate!” website is part of this broader strategy for a unified outlet that captures various innovative programs at the business, engineering, and law schools. Another unique outcome of U-M’s innovation culture is that patents and licensing have become an explicit part of tenure and promotion considerations.

President Coleman’s various engagements also underscore U-M’s strategy of promoting research commercialization through collaborative public- and private-sector relationships. President Coleman currently serves as chair of the Association of American Universities, and the Internet2 Board of Trustees. President Obama selected her as one of six university presidents to help launch the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national effort bringing together industry, universities and the federal government. And in 2010, President Coleman was named co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

U-M faculty and staff are also engaged in university association initiatives, as part of a sustained effort to better communicate the economic impact of universities. This includes Mr. David Lampe co-Chairmanship of APLU’s Strategic Communications and Advancement Working Group.

Other collaborative U-M relationships include the Ann Arbor SPARK, a non-profit created to position the Ann Arbor region as a prime destination for innovative businesses. Ann Arbor SPARK also accelerates the development of startups, supports the growth of established businesses, and connects businesses with relevant talent. Another collaborative relationship is with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a public-private partnership serving as the state's marketing arm and lead agency for business development and economic growth. Among other services, MEDC provides capital programs for businesses, strategic partnerships, talent enhancement, as well as urban and community development.  

The University Research Corridor (URC) is a partnership between U-M, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University. The Research Corridor leverages the intellectual capital of member schools to spark regional economic development. The URC achieves its mission through entrepreneurship, innovation and technology transfer programs, educating a work force prepared for the knowledge economy, and attracting smart and talented people to the state of Michigan.

The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) is interested in connecting driven student with resources, education, and networking.  They want to help students with learning more about entrepreneurship, creating a startup, or funding and advising support.  The CFE offers a Master of Entrepreneurship, Program in Entrepreneurship, and many other entrepreneurship classes.  

In addition to partnerships and advocacy, U-M has also learnt a very informative lesson about requirements for a successful commercialization program; a strong commitment by the university president and leadership is invaluable. Especially as the president’s bully pulpit is a powerful tool that motivates, informs, and excites the community into action. Successfully engaged communities are force multipliers. Successful programs understand this and build on the institution’s character. These programs let a thousand flowers bloom, rather than allow hierarchy to stifle innovation. These programs set priorities, and then hammer away at them repeatedly. These program characteristics position the school as a driver of economic development.

Below is an enumeration of University of Michigan programs and initiatives that support the five buckets in the NACIE sponsored university commitment letter.

Student Entrepreneurship

Through its tradition of action-based, interdisciplinary learning, the University of Michigan primes its students to be tomorrow's most innovative business leaders. Michigan graduates are entrepreneurs in the truest sense and have fueled the formation of many industry-leading businesses from technology startups to some of the world’s leading companies including Google, Domino’s Pizza, Sun Microsystems, Stryker Corp., H&R Block, Borders, and Federal Express.

  • The U-M College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business has created a joint Michigan Master of Entrepreneurship (MsE) degree. The MsE program, which will admit its first class in the fall of 2012, will educate students on forming and managing high-growth potential, scalable businesses.
  • A minor in entrepreneurship, available to students from across the university, is also under development. 
  • The CFE offers the Master of Entrepreneurship, which will help them understand entrepreneurship principles and help them launch their first startup.  

At present, there is a wide range of non-degree programs across all curricula, including

  • The Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies (ZLI) at the Ross School of Business, engages undergraduate and graduate students in real world learning. Launched in 1999, the Institute has granted over $2.3 million to student start-ups. In addition to spearheading efforts to spread entrepreneurship across campus by introducing multidisciplinary courses, hosting university-wide business-plan competitions and grant programs, it has spawned entrepreneurship centers at the Law School, Medical School and College of Engineering. Recently, the Institute received a $60M grant to continue supporting entrepreneurial endeavors of students.
  • The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE), in the College of Engineering, offers entrepreneurship-related undergraduate courses, a nine-credit Program in Entrepreneurship (PIE) where both undergraduate and graduate students from U-M may earn a certificate of completion, and a 15-credit CASE in Entrepreneurship (CASEE) where graduate students, as well as working professionals, are taught the fundamental tools necessary for bringing innovative ideas to market. Since its inception 2,830 students have enrolled in CFE sponsored classes.
  • Zell Entrepreneurship and Law Program (ZEAL), at the U-M Law School, prepares law students to advise and/or develop business enterprises and has established a clinic providing much sought-after legal services for student entrepreneurs in university programs.
  • Medical Innovation Center (MIC), in the U-M Medical School, assists faculty, alumni and partners in taking ideas through the early development stage toward commercialization. Established in 2008, the Center offers a fellowship program in biomedical innovation and also operates a Design and Prototype Lab. The first cohort of fellows launched a medical device company before its fellowship year had ended.
  • The Center for Venture Capital & Private Equity Finance (CVP), at the Ross School of Business, offers a specialized focus on entrepreneurial finance and investment through research and program initiatives. Established in 1994, Center initiatives such as the annual Michigan Growth Capital Symposium and Private Equity Conference effectively connect the University’s entrepreneurial network to the broader financial community. These programs are administered through the Zell Lurie Institute.

Other student-focused activities include the following:

  • CFE and ZLI jointly manage the U-M TechArb Student Accelerator. With the aid of an advisory board of community leaders and professional investors and additional funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research, TechArb helps early stage companies founded by U-M students refine and develop their ideas and business plans, and eventually showcase teams to funders.
  • MPowered Entrepreneurship is a student group created and run by students to expose their fellow students to entrepreneurship and support student ventures through coordinated events and network.  MPowered sponsors several high-profile activities to encourage student involvement, notably the 1,000 Pitches campaign, a campus-wide idea competition, the MPowered Career Fair, focused on growth companies, the Ann Arbor Startup Weekend, to connect students with the local startup community, Vex, a space for collaboration and studying for student entrepreneurs, Startup High School, to connect with high school students in Detroit, MHacks, the largest hackathon in the nation and Make-a-thon, a competition that takes talented college students in engineering, business, art & design, pre-med, and music and gives them 36 hours to design and build a functional physical prototype of their own product idea.
  • Tech Start program is an 8-12 week full time summer internship overseen by U-M Tech Transfer for graduate students from many academic areas including Law, Engineering, Medicine, Business and Information Technology, offers participants an intensive experience working on entrepreneurial projects.
  • Entrepreneurial Multidisciplinary Action Projects (EMAP) offered by the Ross School of Business/Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies immerses student teams in domestic and international entrepreneurial businesses to execute assignments that may include developing business plans, identifying new product opportunities or formulating market entry strategies. EMAP projects are required of all first year business graduate students.
  • Three student-run Venture Funds—the $5.5 million early stage Wolverine Venture Fund, the five-year-old pre-seed Frankel Commercialization Fund, and the first student-run Social Venture Fund— a new initiative to support emerging businesses.
  • The Marcel Gani Internship program places students at start-up and venture capital firms.
  • The Dare to Dream grant program leads students through a six-month thoroughly mentored process that enables them to explore an idea, establish feasibility and launch a venture. Based at the Ross Business School, the program was expanded in 2007 to non-business students under a partnership with the Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering. Support ranges from $500 to $10,000. In 2010 almost $90,000 in total was awarded.
  • Michigan Business Challenge is a four-phase campus-wide business plan competition that selects four finalists to compete for top prizes with over $60,000 awarded throughout the cycle. The Ross Business School operates and funds the competition which attracted 73 teams in 2010. Ambiq Micro, the 2010 winner, has already attracted significant venture capital.
  • Course projects provided by U-M Tech Transfer for classes such as Finance 629 (Financing Research Commercialization) at the Ross School of Business and the Master’s in Entrepreneurship program, as well as investment analysis and consideration by the Wolverine Venture Fund and the Frankel Commercialization Fund managed by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.
  • Entrepreneurial and legal mentoring services provided by U-M Tech Transfer to student projects within the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and other entrepreneurial units across campus.
  • Tech Transfer Fellows program through which graduate students under the supervision of Tech Transfer professionals provide written initial assessments of the commercial aspects of newly reported inventions.
  • The Entrepreneur and Venture Club (EVC) at the Ross School of Business brings together students dedicated to furthering their education and professional goals as prospective entrepreneurs and investors in new ventures.  The EVC provides events, networking opportunities, and educational programs to provide students with the skills and contacts to advance their ambitions.
  • SI Create is a student organization fostering a community of innovation and entrepreneurship at the U-M School of Information. The club sponsors field trips that expose students to innovation and hosts a Business Model Competition.
  • The China Entrepreneur Network (CEN) is aimed at building a global hub for Chinese Entrepreneurs. The U-M is host to both a campus-wide club and a business school student club. CEN also organizes a yearly conference with worldwide participants.
  • The Society for Business Engineers, at the College of Engineering, supports students in the Engineering school with an interest in applying to programs in other areas of study as well as obtaining an entrepreneurship certificate
  • Entrepalooza is an annual conference that introduces students to successful entrepreneurs through presentations and a “lunch and learn” where they can meet one-on-one with seasoned entrepreneurs and investors.
  • TedXUofM is a student group that sets up an annual innovation conference with a 2000+ audience and large web-presence.
  • Tech Fest is an annual program launched in 2011 that welcomes entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, scientists and business leaders from around the world to campus for demonstrations of labs and student projects, networking and brainstorming.
  • Student Trips to high profile companies allowing them to network with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and U-M alumni entrepreneurs are organized by the Center for Entrepreneurship to the San Francisco Bay area, New York and Chicago.
  • Entrepreneurship Hour invites distinguished innovators to campus every week to share their stories.  The speaker series is a class taught through the Center for Entrepreneurship and is open to the public. The talks are also recorded and made available online.
  • Multiple design team student organizations including:
    • Michigan Health Engineered For All Lives (M-HEAL): a multi-disciplinary design team student organization creating medical devices out of low cost materials for health centers in developing nations.  
    • BLUElab: an organization that creates sustainable solutions to development problems in the U.S. and in developing nations.  
    • Solar Car Team: designing, building, and racing solar cars.
  • OptiMize, a student led organization launched the first student-led social innovation challenge, the OptiMize Social Innovation Challenge, in the country, last year.
  • The Innovation in Action: Solutions to Public Health Challenges competition harnesses the talents of Michigan students to address public health problems.
  • As the Creators Co-op website mentions, the Creators Co-op is a live-in collaborative space for the highest potential entrepreneurs on campus, a playground for busy builders and thinkers with an itch to take action. For students, by students.
  • RIME (Rural Innovations in Medical Engineering) is a student organization at the University of Michigan that is dedicated to bringing quality healthcare to rural areas that otherwise would not have access to it. An entrepreneurially driven approach is the focus at RIME where the plans involve developing a product to bring to a market of people who otherwise would not have access.

Some courses and curricular activities focused on Innovation & Entrepreneurship:

  • ENTR 406, High Tech Entrepreneurship - Four aspects of starting high-tech companies are discussed: opportunity and strategy, creating new ventures, functional development and growth and financing. Also, student groups work on reviewing business books, case studies, elevator and investor pitches. Different financing models are covered, including angel or VC funding and small business (SBIR) funding.
  • ENTR 407, Entrepreneurship Hour - Invites distinguished innovators to campus every week to share their stories.  The speaker series is a class taught through the Center for Entrepreneurship and is open to the public. The talks are also recorded and made available online.
  • ENTR 411, Entrepreneurship Practicum - The Practicum immerses students in the entrepreneurial process in a supportive classroom environment. Students critically evaluate and then pursue the development of their own ideas for new ventures.
  • ENGR 390, Intro. to the Design Process - This course examines the processes of design, focusing on the front-end of design, including opportunity discovery, problem definition, developing mechanisms to gather data from users and other stakeholders, translating user data into design requirements, creating innovative solutions during concept generation, and evaluating possible solutions.
  • ARTDES 314, Change by Design - In this project-based class, students will respond to pressing social needs through design thinking processes, including visioning, concept generation, sketching ideas, everyday ethnography, creative experimentation, and extensive prototyping and validation.
  • EECS/ENGR 410, Patent Fundamentals for Engineers - This course covers the fundaments of patents as intellectual property and is geared for undergraduate and graduate students whether in Engineering or any other field.
  • UARTS 250, Creative Process -  This is a class where students are encouraged, in an interdisciplinary way, to explore their own creativity.
  • ENGR 521, Clean Tech Entrepreneurship - This course teaches the students how to screen venture opportunities in various cleantech domains.
  • PSYCH 467, The Psychology of Innovation: Creating a new enterprise -
  • FIN 325, Enterprenurial Finance - This course is open to all BBA students and presents the fundamentals of venture capital and private equity finance.
  • Course projects provided by U-M Tech Transfer for classes such as Finance 629 (Financing Research Commercialization) at the Ross School of Business and the Master’s in Entrepreneurship program, as well as investment analysis and consideration by the Wolverine Venture Fund and the Frankel Commercialization Fund managed by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Faculty Entrepreneurship

The University of Michigan has several incentives to encourage faculty to pursue innovative and entrepreneurial ideas and to mentor graduate students to do so. It also helps to nurture the success of companies based on technology developed at U-M. These incentives include:

  • The Provost has encouraged recognition of innovation and entrepreneurship in faculty tenure and promotion cases. He specifically cites working with U-M Tech Transfer to patent or license and invention; launching a start-up company; and encouraging or instructing students in entrepreneurial activities
  • The U-M Venture Center within U-M Tech Transfer provides a one-stop hub for faculty entrepreneurs as well as investors looking for start-up opportunities based on U-M research
  • The Venture Accelerator provides state-of-the-art laboratories, equipment, and offices for emerging U-M companies from the pipeline of U-M start-ups, as part of a full suite of services and resources from the U-M Venture Center
  • Under the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups Program, U-M invests up to $1 million of university funds in start-ups based on U-M technology, after they have secured initial funding from a qualified venture capital firm
  • The U-M Distinguished University Innovator Award recognizes the faculty's important and lasting contributions to the economy by moving new innovations into the private sector for public benefit, and by demonstrating entrepreneurial success.
  • The U-M Tech Transfer Ted Doan Award for Outstanding Leadership in Entrepreneurship and Innovation is awarded to a deserving individual who has demonstrated a distinguished record of encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation for the state of Michigan
  • The U-M Tech Transfer annual inventor recognition reception, Celebrate Invention, honors faculty who participate in tech transfer activities amidst a celebration with over 300 business, venture, university and community partners
  • MCubed which is a new seed-funding program developed at the University of Michigan to stimulate and support innovative research. The program grew out of the IdeaWorks project in the College of Engineering and is part of the University’s Third Century Initiative. As part of the program, three investigators must place their "token" on a prtoject they are interested in. Once three members (often from different schools) have agreed on a project. There is no peer review before the project is undertaken, and the project is funded with 60,000$.


U-M also invests in infrastructure to support innovation and entrepreneurship. The North Campus Research Complex, a two million square foot array of office and laboratory space, was acquired in 2009. Formerly a Pfizer R&D center contiguous with the campus, the complex houses a variety of the university’s innovation and entrepreneurship activities, including:

  • Space for interdisciplinary teams of U-M faculty to come together to conduct translational research in such areas as health policy, biointerfaces, cardiovascular research, and translational oncology
  • U-M Tech Transfer, the Venture Center, and the Venture Accelerator
  • The Business Engagement Center, which develops and manages relationships with industry partners
  • Facilities for U-M research partners, including biopharmaceutical spinoff Lycera Corp. and Boropharm, a chemical development and manufacturing business

Regional sources for funding and capital:

  • Victors for Michigan - A fundraising campaign undertaken by every unit at all three U-M campuses to focus on some or all of the three priorities:
    • Student support
    • Engaged learning
    • Bold ideas
  • Michigan Venture Capital Association 
  • Wolverine Venture FundThe $7 million dollar Wolverine Venture Fund invests primarily in early stage companies. The Fund is one of the world's first VC funds where students are partners in the investment decision-making process. The Fund's students members seek, screen and negotiate investments and develop significant experience in these areas - and in working with VCs and entrepreneurs. An advisory board of professional venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, and approximately 28 MBA students participate in managing this multi-million dollar fund.
  • Zell Lurie Commericialization FundThe Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund is a pre-seed investment fund established to identify and accelerate the commercialization of great ideas generated within the University community and the surrounding area. Zell Lurie Fund participants (Zell Lurie Fellows) evaluate and invest in early stage entrepreneurial opportunities to learn about the commercialization process and how to be a seed investor. The Zell Lurie Fund teams, focused on healthcare, technology, consumer, and cleantech, work closely with founders, entrepreneurs and with the University of Michigan's Office of Technology Transfer in the course of their work. The Fund is also supported by an advisory board comprised of individuals who have been successful in developing early-stage companeis, markets and technologies.
  • UM Social Venture FundLaunched in September of 2009, the Social Venture Fund is the first student-led investment fund of its kind and the first to close a deal among other such funds that have launched. The Fund focuses exclusively on for-profit social enterprises existing independently or within the legal structure of a pre-existing organization (LC3, 501c3, LLC, etc.). It invests $50,000-$250,000 in pre-revenue and post-revenue companies generating a profit and responding to critical challenges within Education, Food Systems, Environment, Health, and Urban Revitalization. It is focused on businesses based in the U.S. and is particularly interested in plans for the Southeast Michigan/Detroit area.
  • Venture Michigan Fund

University Technology Transfer Functions

The Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) at U-M oversees the commercialization of new technologies and research discoveries, and provides professional resources for inventors, entrepreneurs and industry partners. It is the university’s conduit between laboratory research and corporate commercialization interests.

U-M Tech Transfer utilizes several resources to connect entrepreneurs and other members of the business and venture communities to opportunities at U-M. These include:

  • A highly proficient team ofLicensing Specialists provide inventors and business partners with responsive technology assessment, patenting services, market analysis and contracting services
  • Tech Transfer Fellows employs mentored graduate and post-doc students to assist U-M Tech Transfer licensing specialists in providing comprehensive technology assessments
  • Catalyst, a talent resource network that connects entrepreneurs and other parties with U-M’s technology and venture opportunities
  • The Venture Center employs a team of experienced entrepreneurs in its Mentors-in-Residence program to assist in connecting technology and start-up projects to other entrepreneurs, businesses and venture partners.
  • The Center also leverages relationships with over 250 premier venture capital firms and angel groups to assist entrepreneurs engaged with U-M opportunities
  • U-M Tech Transfer and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs lower the barriers to industry investment in university research by offering sponsors the opportunity to negotiate the terms for licensing possible intellectual property during the initial contracting process


These and various other initiatives have helped accelerate the launching of several ventures, placing U-M among the top 10 universities in the nation in spin-off activity and technology licensing.

  • 93 start-up ventures from 2001 to 2010, many of which have had notable market success such as HealthMedia, HandyLab, Arbor Networks and Accuri Cytometers
  • Creation of 814 agreements from 2001 to 2010, connecting U-M technology with entrepreneurs in new and existing companies
  • With 101 licensing agreements and the spin-off of 11 startups in 2011, U-M consistently ranks in the top 10 U.S. universities in tech transfer performance.


Some other University activities assisting U-M Tech Transfer include:

  • “Gap” funds from the proceeds of U-M Tech Transfer central administration revenues, matched by State-funded programs, are used to address key commercialization issues.  These gap funds are deployed in concert with “translational research” investments from the College of Engineering (CoE), the CoE Coulter process, Office of the Vice President for Research funds and a planned Medical School fund.
  • The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium is a venture capital event that connects high potential Midwest start-ups and university spin-outs with leading investors nationwide. Ten year statistics include: 300 companies presented; 200 raised capital totaling more than $1.7 billion; 60 exited successfully.
  • College of Engineering Technology Development Fund offers awards of up to $50,000 to later-stage research activities related to translational research proof of concept
  • Coulter Foundation Translational Research Fund provides translational funding to 4-8 new biomedical engineering projects a year at up to $100,000 per project
  • The Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR) Pilot Grant Program awards $50,000 to $250,000 for bench to bedside and bedside to practice translational research


University-Industry Collaboration

The Business Engagement Center (BEC), affiliated with the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of University Development, provides companies with a one-stop gateway to the various research, technology, education, facilities, and talent resources at U-M. The BEC maintains affiliated offices in the College of Engineering, the Medical School, and at the Dearborn and Flint campuses. Founded in 2007, the BEC now maintains relationships with more than 1,000 companies, and is contacted by nearly 200 new companies each year.

The BEC-facilitated relationships can range from individual research projects to broader engagements, depending on the business need. For example, aerospace giant Boeing maintains a long-standing partnership with U-M focused on building a pipeline for the future. Boeing recruits from seven different U-M programs, provides support for 50 students, regularly sponsors student projects, and conducts research with four different departments.

One of the functions of the BEC is to work with schools and departments to encourage industry sponsorship of research at U-M. Total sponsorship reached $61.6 million in FY 2011.

Some research initiatives are emerging that specifically aim to spur innovation and economic development in partnership with industry and government. The Michigan Sustainable Transportation Imperative is an emerging initiative that aims to bring U-M’s interdisciplinary strengths together with representatives from the transportation and related industries as well as state and federal government agencies to strengthen the state’s leadership in the next generation of transportation vehicles and systems.

U-M also maintains close relationships with its 450,000 member alumni network and engages a number of U-M alumni in businesses, venture firms and other organizations around the world.  Some examples include:

  • Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of search engine giant Google, earned a B.S. degree in engineering with a concentration in computer science from U-M in 1995. Google AdWords has an office in Ann Arbor;
  • Eric Lefkosfsky and Brad Keywell, founders and founding investors in Groupon. Both earned undergraduate degrees in 1991 and Law School degrees in 1993 from U-M.  Lefkofsky founded a business while still a U-M undergrad;
  • Thomas Bumol, VP Biotechnology and Autoimmunity Research for Eli Lilly in San Diego, CA, earned a B.S. degree in microbiology from U-M in 1975.  Tom sits on the U-M Tech Transfer National Advisory Board;
  • Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 1975. He currently is a partner in the venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer’s Green Tech Practice;
  • Tony Fadell, a key initiator of the iPhone and the iPad products at Apple, started three companies before graduating from U-M with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 1991; and
  • John Denniston is a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a leading venture capital firm.  John has a B.A in Economics and a J.D. from U-M and also serves on the U-M Tech Transfer National Advisory Board.

Regional and Local Economic Development

U-M and its senior management team provide “thought leadership” on America’s economic development policy. Examples include:

  • President Mary Sue Coleman was appointed a founding co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, created by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2010 to support President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and technology transfer
  • Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest chaired Ann Arbor SPARK, the Ann Arbor region’s economic development organization from 2009 to 2012.
  • As an institution, U-M was selected as one of six universities to collaborate in a new national Advanced Manufacturing Initiative recommended by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The University Research Corridor (URC) is a consortium among U-M, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University. This effort was undertaken to highlight the capabilities and impact of the state's three leading research institutions and drive the transformation of Michigan's economy. Among its activities, the URC produces an annual economic impact report that includes an assessment of the impact of the three universities on a different industry sector each year. Some impact figures:

  • The URC economic impact on Michigan increased from $12.9 billion in 2006 to $15.2 billion in 2010.
  • URC spends more than $1.8 billion in research, and educates 137,583 students
  • More than 573,000 URC alumni live in Michigan, earning $28.6 billion in 2010, which is 16.4 percent of all wage and salary income in the state
  • The URC generated $426 million in 2010 state tax revenue even as state support for higher education has declined
  • The URC averages 135 patents per year (140 in 2010) and has spun off an average of 14 companies per year since 2006.


U-M has also provided leadership on three innovative partnerships with other Michigan universities, funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation:

  • The Michigan Corporate Relations Network (MCRN) is a statewide university network designed to create partnerships that will connect Michigan's corporations to critical university assets to help promote innovative research and grow Michigan's economy. Six major public universities in Michigan make up the network.
  • The Tech Transfer Talent Network is a collaborative network among 7 universities led by the University of Michigan to establish regional talent tools, programs and resources to enhance university tech transfer performance.  Modeled after several U-M tools and programs, the Talent Network provides funds for regional and shared resources to enhance the commercialization of university research.
  • The Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIIE) and the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative (MUCI) are statewide collaborations among public universities to promote regional economic development and entrepreneurship.


U-M’s Institute for Labor, Employment, and the Economy has programs aimed at assessing, understanding and encouraging economic development. They include:

  • The Center for Business Acceleration and Incubation Studies, which carries out market feasibility studies for proposed new business incubators in the region to help lay the foundation for success.
  • The Technology Commercialization and Assistance program proactively identifies the capabilities and initiatives of emerging or established companies and matches them with technology available at Michigan universities.
  • The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, an international business plan competition initiated in 2010 highlights Michigan as a venue for innovation and opportunity. The competition, one of the largest of its kind, is sponsored by a network of groups in Michigan committed to bolstering innovation and entrepreneurship in the state. U-M co-sponsors the event through the University Research Corridor. Four U-M ventures have won prizes.

Deep-Dive Questions

  • Is innovation an integral part of U-M’s institutional culture?
  • Why is it important? And how does it influence entrepreneurship and tech transfer?
  • How do you envision your program in the future?
  • What is your vision for each of the case study’s bucket?
  • How does your institution leverage (or intend to leverage) geographic endowment?
  • Are your innovation, entrepreneurship, and tech transfer programs integrated?
  • Why, or why not?
  • Are there any unique successes (and or challenges) you may wish to highlight?

Landscape Analysis

University Innovation Fellow: Grace Hsia, founder of Warmilu LLC, a venture she formed out of the inaugural Masters in Technology Entrepreneurship Program at the School of Engineering.

Grace Hsia's Landscape Analysis (Presentation Summary)

Academic Programs

  • Entrepreneurial Studies Program within Business School
  • Entrepreneurship and Law Program
  • Funding and outreach provided to students in College of Engineering
  • Master of Entrepreneurship joint degree between College of Engineering and Business School
  • Need to expand opportunities to students in other academic programs

Student Initiatives

  • Entrepreneurship Associations in many schools
  • MPowered
  • Entrepreneurship Commission
  • MHacks
  • Hoping to encourage innovators to stay at Michigan instead of leaving to pursue companies

School Resources

  • Center for Entrepreneurship within College of Engineering
  • Legal advice for developing companies
  • Startup Treks to Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, NYC
  • TechArb Student Startup Accelerator- great resource, but currently understaffed
  • TEDx at UofM



Across U-M, more than 1,500 students participated in the more than 100 courses offered at U-M related to entrepreneurship. More than 5,000 students participated in entrepreneurship activities in 2010-11, in classes, competitions, public events and more. One survey showed more than 15 percent of incoming freshmen had started a business before enrolling. With over 15 different entrepreneurship departments, from Engineering to Public Health, students have access to a wide variety of resources to help them pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors.

In addition to investments in human capital, U-M also continues to invest in infrastructure. The North Campus Research Complex, a two million square foot array of office and laboratory space, was acquired in 2009. The complex, formerly a Pfizer R&D center, houses the Venture Accelerator and serves as a locus for many of the university’s economic development efforts.

Beyond investments in human capital and infrastructure, U-M also continues to align its bureaucratic structure to fully leverage regional endowments. The Business Engagement Center, the Medical School Business Development team and the College of Engineering’s Corporate Relations office now collectively serve as the front door to businesses seeking to identify and access U-M resources. Together, these offices manage more than 1,000 active relationships with companies ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to Fortune 500 enterprises. Separately, theU-M Medical School Business Development team connects faculty with external collaborators and helps both navigate the most efficient path to accelerate research from “bench.”

Lastly, Mr. David Lampe's comments have been instructive in better understanding U-M’s leadership role in promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and the commercialization of research in the nation’s universities. As well as the impact of the NACIE commitment letter in framing University of Michigan’s strategic plans and institutional culture.

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship thanks U-M’s assistance with this case study, and looks forward to a continued close and collaborative relationship in building America’s innovation infrastructure.

U-M Office of Technology Transfer:


The Business Engagement Center:


Source: "The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Focus", Department of Commerce, October 2013.

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