U-M Sponsored Research Projects Add $5.9B to Economy Since 2002

University of Michigan research activities have contributed $5.9 billion to the national economy over the past 18 years, with $1.8 billion supporting Michigan-based companies, according to a new report from the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science.
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Research activities at the University of Michigan has contributed $5.9 billion to the national economy since 2002. // Stock photo

University of Michigan research activities have contributed $5.9 billion to the national economy over the past 18 years, with $1.8 billion supporting Michigan-based companies, according to a new report from the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science.

The latest IRIS report provides a geographic snapshot of vendors that supplied goods and services to support research and scholarship activity across the three U-M campuses (Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint).

Companies based in Washtenaw County received more than $1.2 billion through contracts with U-M researchers between 2002 and 2020. Vendors in Genesee County generated more than $18.9 million over the past 18 years for their role in supporting U-M research activity, while companies in Muskegon County netted $1.7 million.

“Research and scholarship led by the University of Michigan not only addresses society’s most wicked problems, they also play a critical role in driving our national economy and strengthening our research pipeline,” says Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

IRIS, a national consortium of research universities based at the U-M Institute for Social Research and organized around an IRB-approved data repository, also measures how research grants support university employees.

IRIS data shows that between 2002 and 2020, an average of more than 16,500 employees across U-M were supported by research grants each year. More than 31 percent of those research-funded employees were students, and around 16 percent were faculty.

“Our findings illuminate the many different ways in which academic research affects the national economy and society as a whole,” says Jason Owen-Smith, executive director of IRIS and professor of sociology. “U-M is an excellent illustration of the multifaceted impact research investments can have, including on economic and workforce development and the career paths of research-funded employees.”

Reports are available to IRIS members. Members submit their administrative research spending data to IRIS, which then links them to various other datasets to produce reports. No individual businesses, employees, or students are identifiable in the reports.

More than 250 researchers have accessed IRIS data through its virtual data enclave, and dozens of published papers and three books have used the data.

Founded in 2015, the IRIS collects record level administrative data from its members to produce a deidentified dataset for research and reporting that improves the organization’s ability to understand, explain, and improve the public value of research.

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