Detroit Regional Chamber, U-M announce innovation corridor plan

May 30, 2024
Detroit. City Hall. Coleman Young Building. Rackham Building. Belle Isle.
Downtown Detroit. Image credit: by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.

MACKINAC ISLAND—The University of Michigan and the Detroit Regional Chamber have unveiled a strategic initiative to foster innovation, technological advancement and economic growth from Ann Arbor to Detroit.

Announced May 30 at the 2024 Mackinac Policy Conference, the collaboration — dubbed Innovate Michigan — aims to create an environment where innovation can thrive and drive Michigan’s economy forward.

“Our state and region must capitalize on recent momentum to secure our competitive position in the 21st century,” said Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Creating an environment of technology-forward companies and talent is a priority and can only be delivered through collaboration and a strong strategic plan. The chamber is excited to take the first step in this work with the University of Michigan.”

Innovate Michigan leverages the strengths of both institutions. The Detroit Regional Chamber, with over a century of promoting economic prosperity, and U-M, the region’s largest producer of talent through its students, faculty and research, will pool their resources and convene other organizations and business to collaborate in the development of an Ann Arbor-to-Detroit innovation corridor.

“With the work we are already doing, and the work we aspire to do in the near future, U-M will have invested nearly $1 billion dollars, over a 10-year period, into efforts and initiatives aimed at bolstering innovation, opportunity and economic growth in the region,” said U-M President Santa J. Ono. “But we believe that even greater connection and collaboration are crucial for the success of an Ann Arbor-to-Detroit innovation corridor. This is the ethos and profound opportunity of Innovate Michigan.”

Despite Michigan’s abundant resources — including top-tier higher education institutions, an engaged business community and a high quality of life — the region struggles to compete with national and global peers in attracting high-tech entrepreneurs and funding.

Ono and Baruah emphasized the need for a collective effort.

“Sandy and I are already in the process of recruiting additional co-chairs, partners, businesses, institutions of higher education, business associations and industry leaders to form a preliminary convening committee,” Ono said.

Once formed, the committee will be charged with developing an overarching strategy, benchmarking metrics and reviewing best practices from other successful “innovation corridors” around the world, as well as setting achievable goals and a realistic timeline for the initiative.

Preliminary goals for Innovate Michigan’s include:

  • Increasing STEM graduates — Boosting the number of science, technology, engineering and math graduates at all levels to equip students with skills for today’s tech-driven world.
  • Enhancing retention rates — Implementing strategies to retain top talent from Michigan universities, ensuring the state’s skilled graduates contribute to the local economy.
  • Attracting talent and entrepreneurs — Drawing degree holders, certified individuals and high-tech entrepreneurs from across the nation and globe to Michigan.
  • Securing funding for startups — Attracting higher levels of funding for startups and developing companies in the technology space.
  • Attracting and retaining businesses — Ensuring the attraction and retention of medium and large businesses to connect technology and talent to job opportunities.
  • Building an innovation ecosystem — Developing a robust ecosystem connecting innovators with established companies, other innovators and technical support.
  • Active promotion strategy — Promoting Michigan’s innovation history and future potential to attract further investment and interest.
  • Placemaking for attractive communities — Promoting initiatives to develop attractive communities that retain and attract skilled professionals.
  • Supporting public policy — Advocating for public policies that support the goals of the Ann Arbor-to-Detroit innovation corridor and benefit the entire state of Michigan.

With the combined efforts of U-M and the Detroit Regional Chamber, Innovate Michigan is poised to transform the region into a national leader in technology and economic development.