LANSING - Michigan's three largest universities have formed an alliance to let everyone know that 95 percent of the research dollars in the state are spent at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.
The alliance will remain relatively informal, but the three schools will speak in support of funding before the Legislature and together in efforts to promote the use and development of technology to convert Michigan's economy.
The focus of research efforts comes with it "the responsibility to reposition the state," said Steve Webster, vice president at MSU.
The three have already had an impact using their connections with alumni in Asia to help open doors for Gov. Jennifer Granholm during her trips there.
Webster said U-M and its President Mary Sue Coleman were probably the primary reason that Google decided to locate its new AdWords center in Ann Arbor, because it could find the concentration of highly intelligent workers in needed in that area.
The alliance does not mean the three universities will split off from the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. The three will still be involved with the group on overall higher education issues in the state, Webster said.
Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, said as the state's research-intensive universities with medical schools, the three largest schools have costs associated with their mission that some of the other schools do not carry. "They want to make that point more intensively," he said.
"This is not to say that Western or Central or any of the other 12 don't do research," Boulus said. "But out of the federal research funds that Michigan gets, those three get at least 90 percent of the dollars."
Last month, in an interview with Gongwer News Service, outgoing Grand Valley State University President Mark Murray said the three research universities, particularly U-M, are the most important institutions to the state in terms of rebuilding its economy.
Webster said the three presidents - U-M's Coleman, MSU's Lou Anna Simon and Wayne State's Irvin Reid - first began to think about coalescing last fall when the Granholm administration asked for budget proposals.
Granholm recognized that unique position of the three, when she proposed they receive a flat across the board increase, while the other schools were proposed a range of increases. The three presidents then combined to present their budget presentations to the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
The three presidents have opportunities to talk at a number of different locations, Webster said, and will work over the summer and fall on helping develop areas they want to be united on.
"It's really a matter of speaking with one voice" on issues important to those three research schools, Webster said.
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