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MSU president says competitiveness lies in international partnerships, research and innovation

Publish Date: Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University, spoke to Lansing Regional Chamber members as the keynote speaker for their Economic Club luncheon in February.

Simon said competitiveness resides in international relationships and partnerships. "We have to support research and we have to support the innovation cycle - and our students," she said. Research is a key component to the innovation cycle, even if we don't understand what it will do. The innovation cycle requires research funding and research support in the very basic sense.

Hyena research may not seem like it relates to Michigan, but Simon explained how Kay Holekamp's research in Africa may have a direct impact at home. Hyenas have a highly advanced immune system that is more developed than other creatures, which allows them to maintain their health and even survive cobra bites. "Wouldn't it be terrific if we could figure out the magic key to unlocking that immune system for the people of Michigan?" Simon asked.

"We have to, as a country, support things we don't understand at a level that is competitive with the rest of the world in order to have the knowledge and innovation cycle to go with it," Simon said. The next step is then figuring out ways to transfer that technology more effectively.

She said the Center for International Business Education and Research does that in a great way, and that these connections are critical.

One of the Center's programs that makes the connection between research and local applications is the Michigan Export Growth Program. The program provides pro bono advice for Michigan companies exploring international expansion opportunities.

The program pairs teams of business students, faculty members and advisors with small- to medium-d businesses in the greater Lansing area. These teams research issues that a company will face when going abroad and deliver reports to answer their questions. To start the process, all businesses need to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

"We've got to think locally and globally at the same time," Simon said. "They have to come together for us to be competitive."