Driving Innovation: Exploring Michigan's Research and Development Landscape

MEDC Communications

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

With a rich history of innovation and commitment to fostering growth, Michigan serves as a thriving hub for cutting-edge research and technological advancements.


The state's research and development (R&D) sector continues to propel advancements across industries in part through strategic investments by the state. Historically, Michigan businesses spent $22.4 billion on R&D investments, making Michigan a top 5 state in the nation. Michigan is keeping the momentum going with projects in the engineering design and development industry forecasted to attract over $143 million in private investments and generate over 700 employment opportunities this year alone, demonstrating the state’s commitment to nurturing industries that drive innovation and economic growth.


Universities Fostering Collaborative Innovation

The University of Michigan’s Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between research and commercialization. This program offers funding, expertise and resources to researchers, enabling them to make groundbreaking – and potentially lifesaving – discoveries in the medical device field.

The Coulter Program is known for its two award programs, Enlighten and Evolve, which both provide students with direct mentorship opportunities from medical device industry experts and outside investors, and allow hands-on experience in product design, prototyping, verification and validation studies. Awardees from the programs have assisted in reaching major project milestones and seen several successful commercial exits..

In East Lansing, the Michigan State University (MSU) Office of Research and Innovation is another key player in the state’s R&D landscape. To see the institution’s robust research infrastructure, corporate engagement resources and assistance in facilitating strategic partnerships, look no further than Great Lakes Crystal Technologies (GLCT), a local manufacturer of high-performance diamond materials used for x-ray optics and other quantum technologies. The MSU spinoff harnessed the university’s resources to advance its crystal growth technology, resulting in significant advancements in the gemstone industry.

A leader in nuclear science, MSU also operates the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), a world-class research center and the most powerful rare isotope accelerator. As a user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, FRIB supports groundbreaking research for MSU graduate students, fostering discovery in the realm of rare isotopes and contributing to the state’s overall R&D landscape.


2023 EV Scholars students participate in Networking Event and Engineering Expo at Michigan State University


Nurturing the Next Generation of Innovators

Michigan’s commitment to talent is unmatched. The state employs over 4,500 commercial and industrial designers, a concentration four times higher than the national average. This stronghold combined with a pipeline of engineering graduates positions Michigan as a prime destination for industries seeking skilled professions within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce.

To maintain a competitive edge for generations to come, STEM Forward is a game-changing statewide initiative that promotes STEM talent among younger populations and cultivates talent for the likes of GLCT. “We have had Michigan STEM Forward support for process technicians and engineers, hardware technicians and engineers and data science engineers,” GLCT president and CEO Keith Evans said in support of the program.

Top engineering students at select universities also have the opportunity to apply to The Michigander EV Scholars program, a project created in partnership with MEDC’s Talent Action Team and local EV and mobility employers. This opportunity aims to further grow the talent pipeline in Michigan by offering scholarship dollars to students who sign a letter of employment with an approved company and commit to staying for 12 months in Michigan.

As a result of strong training programs, companies are leveraging the state’s far-reaching advantages for research and development operations. From KLA which decided to locate its R&D semiconductor research center and second U.S. headquarters in Ann Arbor thanks to the state’s “impressive engineering talent,” to electrical engineering consulting firm Commonwealth Associates growing its headquarters in Jackson, Michigan.


The Center of Mobility R&D

Boasting the largest concentration of electrical, mechanical and industrial engineers in the nation, Michigan provides the ideal environment for next-generation automotive technology and EV battery manufacturing. Michigan’s proximity to suppliers and access to world-class engineering talent ensure that the state remains a driving force in America's manufacturing future.

Michigan prioritizes R&D mobility through partnerships with organizations like LIFT. The collaborative efforts of these entities with the state drive the adoption of advanced manufacturing techniques, creating a true ecosystem of mobility through materials R&D and the leading concentration of employment for commercial and mechanical engineers in the nation.


Gov. Whitmer meets with AISIN Corporation during 2023 investment mission to Japan


The state is continuing to see investments from companies like Scout Motors, an independent U.S. auto manufacturer that chose Michigan because of the strength of automotive engineering talent in the state in the state as well as their alignment with the company’s R&D mobility goals. In addition to creating hundreds of immediate, high-paying engineering jobs, the investment further supports the state’s work to position itself as the global leader in the future of mobility and vehicle electrification.

Michigan is also home to six AISIN Corporation locations; the company is one of the largest Tier One automotive parts and systems suppliers in the world. AISIN proudly conducts 100 percent of its research and development and sales and marketing activities within the state, attributing their success to Michigan’s accredited universities, proximity to their customers and the state’s evolving auto industry.


Your Gateway to Growth

As a place where innovation thrives, Michigan offers an array of resources and partnerships to foster industry growth. Michigan’s Site Selectors Landing Page serves as a comprehensive resource, offering valuable statistics and access to the Zoom Prospector database.


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