‘Innovation Index’ Says Michigan is Headed, Slightly, Toward Pre-Recession Numbers

If you squint just the right way at new numbers from a quarterly “innovation index” released by the University of Michigan-Dearborn, you might just believe that Michigan could be headed toward an actual end to the recession.

The index, which measures things like loans, VC funding, and new incorporations rose to 89 (out of 100) in the first quarter of 2010, up from 83.3 in the fourth quarter of 2009. This is the highest rise in the index since 2008.

The jump is attributed to an increase in trademark applications and incorporation filings, but new university spinoffs and economic development efforts are also contributing to the improving figures.

“These figures seem to indicate that innovation is on the rise toward pre-recession numbers,” Lee Redding, associate professor at UM-Dearborn and the index’s project director, told Crain’s Detroit Business. The index is above its year-ago level of 80.0 and at its highest point since the third quarter of 2008 before the worst of the credit crunch.

The quarterly index, a project of U-M-Dearborn’s Center for Innovation Research, or iLabs, tracks economic innovation in Michigan based on calculations of employment of “innovation workers,” trends in venture capital, trademark applications, incorporation activity, small business loans and gross job creation.

Employment of “innovation workers,” or those employed in science and engineering, continued a rebound, adding 0.4 points to the index in the quarter.

Not ready to hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner across Michigan yet, but at least something is headed in a positive direction.

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