Potholed roads, aging water systems and vulnerable underwater transmission lines remind residents daily of the importance of adequate and safe public infrastructure. Michigan’s three University Research Corridor institutions are contributing knowledge to help develop solutions and the talent to apply them in Michigan.
The URC member universities—Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University—conducted $1.64 billion in infrastructure-related research and initiatives in recent years to improve the nation’s water, mobility, energy and communications infrastructure. This research often spans disciplines, such as investigating solutions to the water-energy nexus or how communications technology can make mobility smarter and safer.
The research institutions also prepared more than 34,000 graduates for infrastructure-related jobs in the last five years, helping supply Michigan’s economy with skilled, qualified talent while testing many solutions on their own campuses.
“Our campuses are models—living laboratories—for the future of infrastructure,” MSU Interim President John Engler said. “We have a track record of making major contributions to infrastructure innovation, such as with the Merit Network, a precursor to the Internet that all three URC institutions helped to create and that today is expanding broadband access across the state. Michigan does face big infrastructure challenges, but with the breadth and depth of expertise found at our institutions, we are positioned to continue to shape how people interact with their built and digital environments, and move Michigan forward.”
The URC worked with Lansing, Mich.-based Public Sector Consultants on this year’s annual sector report focused on public infrastructure. Foundation for the Future: URC Contributions to Infrastructure Improvement uses the framework developed by the Governor’s 21st Century Infrastructure Commission to detail the URC’s contributions in research and development, talent development and technology transfer to infrastructure challenges in water, mobility, energy and communications.
Applications of university know-how include MSU’s commercialization agreement with a Silicon Valley tech company that will use the university’s clear solar panel technology to work toward eliminating the battery life limitations of mobile devices. U-M is working with the Michigan Department of Transportation to develop a less costly, yet more durable, concrete, while researchers at WSU developed methodology to help power producers track, manage, reduce and report their facilities’ emissions.
“Our institutions train the next generation of talent, sponsor the current creative minds from academic laboratories to the real-world and partner with the communities to address their unique challenges,” said Britany Affolter-Caine, interim director of the URC. “We turn discoveries into solutions and are proud to support these advancements locally and globally.”