ANN ARBOR—Corporate expenditures on University of Michigan research rose to $100.8 million in the past fiscal year.
The U-M Business Engagement Center reported that total research and philanthropic contributions to the university from corporations rose to $142.8 million.
The first-time annual report comes as the center celebrates its 10th year serving as the university's front door for industry wanting to connect with the U-M community. The BEC connects companies with research, recruiting, faculty and philanthropic opportunities across campus.
Since inception, corporate philanthropy has increased 53 percent and corporate research expenditures have nearly tripled.
"After years of declining federal funding, industry has stepped in to fill a very critical gap," said Jack Hu, U-M vice president for research. "I see this trend continuing and see opportunity for industry—both domestic and international—to connect with U-M for comprehensive student support and dynamic research."
In fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30, research awards to the university from corporate partners hit a new high as well, at $196 million. This figure represents new investments in upcoming research initiatives, i.e., a commitment to future projects.
Corporate engagement at U-M is an integral part of its heritage. The first corporate gift to the university was the land it sits on. In 1837, the Ann Arbor Land Company gave property to form the Ann Arbor campus—what we now know as the Diag.
Since then, the university has relied on corporate involvement. Industry has played a significant role in the Victors for Michigan campaign, with corporate support for students, discretionary gifts for deans, research grants for faculty members, and sponsorship funds for events and student teams or projects.
"Our industry partners have proven again this year how valuable they are to U-M and the business community at large," said Jerry May, U-M executive vice president for development. "I'm grateful for the tremendous impact our partners have had over the last decade, through their growing engagement and generosity."
Collaborative research initiatives are central to the mission of the BEC. Innovative research involves interdisciplinary approaches and can often be propelled to the next level by industry involvement through funding or collaborative research partnerships.
Since inception, the BEC has helped orchestrate over 10 master research agreements for companies who engage across campus for such collaborative projects.
The BEC reports jointly to the Office of Research and Office of University Development, a model that works very well in U-M's decentralized university. This unique model has been a draw for other institutions. More than 113 universities or organizations have looked to the BEC for advice on establishing a similar structure.
Daryl Weinert, the BEC's first executive director and current associate vice president for research, said the center has become known as a leader nationally and globally for its impact across campus and for providing seamless, service-oriented assistance to external and internal partners.
"The number of schools who have come through to kick the tires and learn from U-M is astounding," Weinert said. "It's great to see that our mentorship has helped many institutions develop their own model of corporate engagement."
The eight relationship managers at the BEC work with more than 900 companies around the world, up 166 percent in the last decade. Industry sectors represented include automotive, manufacturing, technology, consumer products and financial services.
Stella Wixom, the BEC's executive director, said the trend in industry involvement and need for continued support is an opportunity to celebrate.
"We started with U-M leadership behind us and with that foundation, the place we've been able to take corporate engagement with the state of Michigan and our corporate partners has wildly exceeded our expectations," Wixom said. "And the best is yet to come."