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Thursday, 06 June 2013 12:39

Survey: 19 percent of graduates of Michigan’s research universities become entrepreneurs

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That nearly one out of every five graduates from Michigan’s top three research universities has started at least one business proves the need for continued support for entrepreneurism by higher education.

So says a survey from the University Research Corridor, an alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

The data also indicate that in the last decade, alumni of URC schools are delving into entrepreneurship at an earlier age. That finding could reflect a higher emphasis that member institutions have placed on supporting entrepreneurship, as have most of Michigan’s other public universities in recent years.

“There is just an awakening not only on the campuses but in the state about the notion of not just going to work for someone but creating your own company and having people work for you,” URC Executive Director Jeff Mason said. “It bodes well for Michigan’s future and our economic prosperity.”

Mason sees that trend only continuing as Michigan further emerges from the hard economic times of just a few years ago. URC members and the other universities in the state need to continue to invest in curriculum and programming that support entrepreneurship, Mason said.

“It suggests that the trend is going in the right direction and we need to continue that momentum,” he said of the survey results. “There’s a growing sense not only within our universities but throughout the state of the importance of entrepreneurship and starting companies. So we would expect that in five years from now, if we went out and did this survey again, the numbers would be trending up.”

URC members combined have 1.2 million living alumni. The URC surveyed 450,000 and received more than 40,000 responses.

Of the respondents, 19 percent said they have formed at least one business. Half of them did it in Michigan, according to a report on the URC survey prepared by the Anderson Economic Group of Lansing. Respondents formed 14,435 businesses, an average of 1.67 per entrepreneur. The results did not account for alumni who acquired an existing business.

“The traditional role of universities has been to prepare students to participate in civil society, and to enhance the base of knowledge and culture in that society. Consistent with that aim, this study shows that Michigan’s major research universities are preparing the graduates to enrich society by founding businesses that become both pillars of the community and foundations of the economy of the future,” economist Patrick Anderson wrote in the report.

The highest rate of entrepreneurship is among URC member alumni who graduated in the 1960s and 1970s, although data suggest a younger generation is now coming into play.

The rate of URC alumni starting their own businesses since 1996 is twice the national rate, according to the report.

Of the entrepreneurs who graduated from 2003 to 2012 from URC member schools, 70 percent started a business between the age of 26 and 31, which equates to four to eight years sooner than prior generations.

That indicates that “what the universities have done over the last five or 10 years with more emphasis on entrepreneurship is working,” Mason said.

During the last decade, the three URC schools have launched nearly 40 programs to teach and support entrepreneurism, the report states.

“Michigan’s three premier research universities are doing more every year to promote an entrepreneurial mindset while helping Michigan’s businesses grow by providing the talent they need,” MSU President Lou Anna Simon said. “By focusing on entrepreneurship at all three universities, we’re creating a deep pool of talented graduates who can help startup companies succeed.”

Of the companies started or acquired by URC alumni and in operation since 2005, nearly 70 percent are still in business, which compares quite favorably to the national average for success rates. Among all U.S. businesses started in 2005, 43 percent are still around, according to U.S. Census Bureau data cited in the Anderson Economic Group report.

The survey also found that graduates of URC schools did not necessarily start a business in a field where they earned their degree.

“For most URC alumni, their college major is not closely related to the industry in which they start or acquire a business,” the report states. “This indicates that the overall URC experience, rather than an individual major, helps to prepare students for careers.”

Read 5097 times Last modified on Friday, 19 July 2013 12:19

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