Michigan's intended transformation from a regional manufacturer to key player in a global, information-based economy depends upon the region's ability to diversify and develop new industries, particularly biotechnology, according to Noren.
The state's two-year-old University Research Corridor, comprised of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, has untapped potential as a catalyst for economic development in Southeast Michigan, he said.
Noren, along with University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon, plan to pick an executive director to serve as "the face of the URC" and to set up a Lansing office later this year. The research corridor currently has no physical presence and exists only on the Web at urcmich.org.
Together, Wayne State, U-M and MSU spend more than $1.3 billion on research activities and the research corridor, which spends $6.7 billion on operations, directly employs more than 48,000 jobs, making it one of Michigan's four largest employers.
The universities' collaboration with government and business interests could put Detroit at the forefront of innovation and help transfer new technology from the lab to the marketplace, Noren said. "There is no American city with more mental toughness and a stronger work ethic than Detroit."
A successful alliance would rival other "clusters of innovation" around the country, such as Boston's 128 Corridor, which includes Harvard and Tufts universities and, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or Silicon Valley, comprised of Stanford University, the University of California -- Berkeley and UC- San Francisco.
In Michigan, academic-private-government projects already under way include a $57 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study children's health and TechTown, a Wayne State research facility that will house Michigan's first stem cell commercialization lab.
MSU President Lou Anna Simon said she hoped that the alliance could be a force for good. "It's important to get news out about Michigan that's positive and to show that we can compete" with other parts of the country.