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Posted on Thu, Jan 27, 2011 : 5:45 a.m.

Michigan Innovation for the new year: column will expand its focus in 2011

By Daryl Weinert

There are many reasons to be excited about the state’s economic outlook for 2011. In addition to recent forecasts of positive net job growth in Michigan — the first net growth in more than a decade — the University of Michigan has started off the new year giving us some additional reasons for optimism.

To begin, I’m writing this column from our new office space in the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC). The Business Engagement Center’s move late last year to the NCRC with the Office of Technology Transfer and the medical school’s Business Development Office provides an even more integrated and accessible path for businesses to engage with U-M. Immediately adjacent to our office is the university’s new Venture Accelerator, which is now home to several U-M spinouts, and is a great example of the most recent efforts to grow additional ventures based on university technologies.

With these periodic columns over the past 21 months, I’ve examined many of these new offices, programs, and events that the university has implemented to spur innovation and strengthen ties to business partners. I’ve tried to tackle questions including, “How do you successfully marry corporate and university cultures? How do you connect complex organizations? How do you create an environment that encourages entrepreneurs, and the growth of innovative ideas and enterprises?” These kinds of questions are now being asked by an increasing number of faculty and staff across campus, and many of them are working on new initiatives to that end. But this column has only scratched the surface of their innovation stories.

Starting in February, this column will expand to incorporate additional U-M schools/colleges, and units that are trying new approaches to enhance entrepreneurship, drive public/private partnerships, and encourage innovation. The column will have a new heading— “Michigan Innovation” — and will be written by a select number of my colleagues who pursue these challenges on a daily basis.

My hope is that this column can continue to bring interesting perspectives to and spur additional thought about the university’s role in the state’s economic wellbeing. So far, we’re off to a good start.

Daryl Weinert is the Executive Director of the University of Michigan’s Business Engagement Center. He can be reached at