Blog: Lou Glazer

Here's Post No. 4 from Lou Glazer, the president of Ann Arbor-based Michigan Future Inc., a think-tank that is a resource of ideas for how Michigan can and should reshape its economy. Check back daily for more of Glazer's thoughts.

Post No. 2

One can’t emphasize enough, in a knowledge economy, the strategic importance of our major research universities. Communities across the globe, recognizing the importance of research universities, are trying to replicate what we already have here.

One can make a strong case that the most productive state and local economic growth policies over the past several decades have been public investments in research universities in Austin, San Diego and North Carolina's Research Triangle. The payoff in each case has been huge.

Bill Gates in a 2005 presentation to the National Conference of State Legislatures said it best:

... take the two big leading industries, industries around biology and medicine, that's one, and industries around computer technology, that's two. The job creation and the success for those industries have been overwhelmingly in the locations where there is a great university. There's an almost perfect correlation between the number of jobs in a region and the strength of the universities. And, that will continue, whether it's new fields like nanotechnology, or those two fields I mentioned, on the ongoing strength that they'll have. And so for this country, we have to have the best universities.

Conventional wisdom has it that the most important contribution that research universities make to the economy is by spinning off for commercialization new knowledge. No question places where new knowledge is being created have a big edge in being the places where new technologies are commercialized. But there are no guarantees. It's hard to turn an idea into a commercial success. And when you do, often there aren’t many jobs or they go elsewhere.