Mary Sue Coleman: University of Michigan could hit $2 billion in research spending by 2017
University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman this afternoon said the university could double its research spending to $2 billion by 2017.The stratospheric increase would give the university one of the largest research budgets of any educational institution in the country. In 2007, Johns Hopkins University' $1.55 billion research budget was reportedly the highest.
The potential expansion, from $1 billion to $2 billion in eight years, is directly connected with the university's $108 million acquisition of the ex-Pfizer campus in northern Ann Arbor. It would require 9 percent annual growth in research spending, up from the university's current rate of 5 percent, Coleman said.
"It would require a tremendous effort," Coleman said at her "State of the University" speech. "But isn't that a grand goal worth pursuing?"
U-M's research budget topped $1 billion this year for the first time. That figure does not include economic stimulus spending, Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest told AnnArbor.com.
The ex-Pfizer site, renamed "North Campus Research Complex," offers the university the chance to launch collaborative research initiatives featuring interdisciplinary faculty efforts.
The university envisions cooperative research efforts like this: A biotech scientist could collaborate with an alternative energy engineer to pursue new biofuel technologies.
"The North Campus Research Complex is a once-in-a-century opportunity to redefine academic research in critical areas," Coleman said. "Here, we will concentrate on the truly complex issues of our time, problems that demand collaboration and new ways of thinking."
Coleman said the university would hire an executive director to lead the North Campus Research Complex.
The research expansion comes even as the university is simultaneously seeking additional general fund budget cuts. Coleman said she's open to ideas on how to streamline traditional spending.
Forrest said traditional budget frugality can coexist with the university's research expansion.
"The research budget comes from different sources. It comes primarily from federal and from industry sources. And the industry budget has been growing, quite robustly actually, even in this horrific downturn," Forrest said in an interview.
Forrest, whom Coleman cited as the leading proponent of a $2 billion research goal, acknowledged that it's a steep goal.
"Can we sustain it? I don’t know, but I think that we are as well
positioned as any of the best universities on the entire planet," Forrest said. "The number reflects the quality of the faculty. And I think it’s quite
apparent that our growth in recent years has shown that our faculty are
not just competitive -- they’re world leading."