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Posted on Mon, Oct 5, 2009 : 3:36 p.m.

Mary Sue Coleman: University of Michigan could hit $2 billion in research spending by 2017

By Nathan Bomey

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.


University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman delivers her "State of the University" address in Blau auditorium of the Stephen M. Ross Business School in Ann Arbor Monday.

Angela Cesere |

"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

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."

Contact's Nathan Bomey at or (734) 623-2587. You can also follow him on Twitter or visit the live blog of Coleman's "State of the University" speech.



Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 2:58 p.m.

yohan, She does mention education many time, BUT it is one of many goals of a major research institution like the UM. The consumer confidence index is done monthly by the UM and used nationally as a statistic regarding tthe economy, the UM health system does more than educate doctors and nurrses, it has actual doctors who treat victims on burns and cancer and other life threatening issues. The University also puts on a full slate of sports programs for student athletes. They have residence halls that are not about education, but about living environment. The University is designed to give things besides an education. MSU does this as well. They spend lots of money in helping farmers and others, which coincides with their mission as a land grant university. Finally, I really would like to know why you would think RESEARCH would not be educational? If a researcher at the UM discovers a vaccine that prevents AIDS, would that bee because he gained education about how the virus works? Don't buy the myth that undergraduates are all that matter.

Nathan Bomey

Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 8:09 a.m.

Yohan, to be fair, Coleman did address students many times during the speech. This story, however, focuses mostly on the research elements of her address. For prepared text of the speech, see this link. Thanks, Nathan


Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 7:19 a.m.

This seems to be why Mary Sue was hired; she's very good at bringing in the industry bucks. There's real danger to the preservation of an academic institution's independence and integrity, and I think UM has already crossed the line. Barking up the wrong tree? Industry funding of academic research

Rork Kuick

Tue, Oct 6, 2009 : 6:30 a.m.

Not every UM story is about education (or sports). We do research here as well. I've not heard many arguments saying that this is a bad thing. I have heard that the indirect costs from grants do help contribute to the general fund - by doing research we are not sucking the life out of the educational goals, I think, and it also provides opportunities for some students to be involved in research. I think it could be argued that we have not done enough to keep top research scientists here, at least in biomedical research - I can't speak for other areas - and are "world leading" in spite of that.


Mon, Oct 5, 2009 : 11:57 p.m.

Did she ever mention the process of educating the young men and women of the State of Michigan? Of course not. Is not that the primary purpose of the institution? UM couldn't care less about education