10 Ideas for Strengthening Michigan’s Innovation Economy


1. Support the relevant state-regional-level infrastructures: favorable state capital gains tax, generous support for K-12, university education.

2. Develop professional, competent, adequately funded technology transfer offices in Michigan research universities. Develop some system for lowering cost of start-up capital (low-interest state loans, etc).

3. Pick *one* geographic area (probably Ann Arbor, since young professionals would like to move/live there) and continue to strengthen the start-up ecology there (University, tech-transfer office…)

4. Pick a few areas of technology (robotics, mobile communications for automotive, border security, inland water management, whatever…where Michigan might have an unfair advantage) and invest selectively in those.

5. Develop a mechanism for attracting, recruiting, and moving first-rate scientists/engineers from abroad (there are still lots who would like to leave Russia, Poland, etc., and come to the U.S.).

6. Use the large Detroit Middle Eastern community to establish ties to capital in the Middle East.

7. Have a state-level office reporting to the governor that partners with regional development groups in Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, etc.

8. Develop a program to pair experienced and aspiring entrepreneurs in apprentice arrangements of 3-4 years’ duration (inside or outside Michigan).

9. Develop a public education program to explain the entrepreneurial process, and its benefits (PBS, etc.).

10. Develop more programs with explicit emphasis on creation of jobs (all of Michigan) and technology for urban renewal (Detroit).

[Editor’s note: To help launch Xconomy Detroit, we’ve queried our network of Xconomists and other innovation leaders around the country for their list of the most important things that entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan can do to reinvigorate their regional economy.]

George Whitesides is a University Professor at Harvard University researching materials science, biophysics, microfluidics, and other fields. He is a co-founder of Genzyme, Theravance, Surface Logix, Arsenal Medical, and Nano-Terra. Follow @

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6 responses to “10 Ideas for Strengthening Michigan’s Innovation Economy”

  1. Kashif says:


    great suggestions. However just had a comment on some of them:

    #5 depends on adequate immigration reform from Washington, most especially with increasing the number of H1B visas (currently the IT industry uses up most of them).

    #6 was attempted and failed by Dow Corning and the Kuwaiti govt. in the K-Dow venture to bring petroleum refinement jobs to Detroit.

    There could be another angle in that the universities in Michigan could partner with some colleges and universities in the Gulf to have joint faculty exchanges as well as research of mutual benefit (similar to existing arrangements with China made over the last decade). This would take HUGE political will to do.

    #9 and #10 I thought was already being done by Dan Gilbert through the Bizdom U project.

    Otherwise great suggestions.

  2. Mouhamad says:

    All are good suggestion, but I would not put too much stock in number 6. I am here and been here for most of my life and I never saw a relationship between Arab American and the Middle east. When something happens it is mostly political and have no impact on SE Michigan.

    The most an entrepreneur need is assistant in areas they do not have skills in and funding. The system as laid out now does not provide help that I can not find on the internet and the money is still spent selectively (maybe for good reason), but it is too tight to allow for business to develop in Michigan.

    Small attempts like Bizdom and so on, are OK, but are they industry makers or just educational in nature?

    Creativity and entrpreneurship cannot be harnessed in a tube. This is something that is built into the individual and their life experience and what we should be doing is finding those people and putting them on a track to succsess without loan sharking investors.

  3. We could use more innovation here in Austin. After being leaders in these areas for so long, it’s hard to feel this slow down.

  4. @George Whitesides
    10 important ideas / aspects you described are really informative and vital.For Strengthening Michigan’s Innovation Economy we’ve to follow maximum ideas among them.

  5. I genuinely enjoyed reading your blog and points that you simply expressed.The information that you have to provide Michigan’s Innovation Economy really nice.

  6. This is really worth reading. Thanks for sharing.