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Posted on Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 6:05 a.m.

University of Michigan's Stephen Forrest says private sector will share ex-Pfizer research site

By Dan Meisler

The University of Michigan will look for private-sector partners to share space at its newly acquired former Pfizer property in Ann Arbor, and U-M's vice president of research Stephen Forrest outlined some of the criteria the university will use to evaluate potential joint ventures.

At a speech to a meeting of the Urban Land Institute on Wednesday in Ann Arbor, Forrest said private collaborators should have:

• Research synergies with the university.
• Workforce needs that can be satisfied by the university.
• Interest in technologies developed at the university.
• Interest in facilities where collaborative work can flourish.

And Forrest's overview of the potential of the 30-building, 174-acre site signaled grand ambitions: "We can reinvent how advanced research can be mobilized to quickly solve the largest problems facing humankind today."

At the same time, Forrest said the site, now called the North Campus Research Complex, will not be limited to the life sciences, although the early uses will be heavily centered in that field.

"One of the big proposals is energy sustainability activity there," he said. "Anything that makes sense, solves significant problems, can garner significant external support, can be in the mix."

Forrest also shared some statistics with the audience, which he credited to the Biotechnology Industry Group, showing that U-M technology licensing has contributed $187 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, and has created 279,000 jobs between 1996 and 2007.

The purchase of the site, and its expected role in U-M doubling it's $1 billion research budget in coming years, was named the "Deal of the Year" by Ann's Business Review on Nov. 6.

Freelance reporter Dan Meisler can be reached at