Business Engagement Center

Business Engagement Center


Stella Wixom, Executive Director of the BEC

The Business Engagement Center (BEC) at the University of Michigan is the front door connecting faculty and students with companies for mutually beneficial partnerships, exceptional experiences and opportunities to grow industry engagement at U-M.

The BEC was founded in 2007 by former U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who famously told academic and business leaders, “Partner or perish.” “Her point was that we can’t have a strong University of Michigan without a strong state of Michigan,” says Stella Wixom, Executive Director of the BEC. “It was a real emphasis on recognizing that we needed to be more available to small- and medium-size businesses in the state.”

NCRC has enabled the BEC to create a professional space to host companies to further public/private partnerships. BEC was also Co-sponsor of Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley’s Bid to Build: Annual Auction and Celebration, hosted at NCRC, and has an ongoing collaboration with the Office of Tech Transfer, Fast Forward Medical Innovation and the Venture Accelerator, all located at NCRC.

Wixom notes: “Being at NCRC enables the BEC staff to be in close proximity to the researchers and labs of the University of Michigan. We have access to five conference rooms in our immediate vicinity along with ample parking, giving us the ability to host companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 with ease.”

Over 800 corporate visitors come through the BEC each year, and since 2013 more than 65 academic institutions and organizations have contacted the BEC for advice on developing their own, similarly structured units.
In 2016 alone, 25 academic units reached out to the BEC, including Australian National University, The Ohio State University, University of Washington, University of Cincinnati Research Institute, New York University, and Virginia Tech, and the BEC was featured in an April Smart Business Columbus article focusing on how Ohio State is trying to build a bridge between research and industry, and how the University of Michigan is leading the way in collaborating with businesses.

Strengthening ties

The BEC is committed to:

  • Serving as a catalyst, bringing faculty and companies together for corporate engagement
  • Assisting in the development of master research agreements
  • Securing philanthropic support for scholarships, fellowships and professorships
  • Connecting students with real world experiences

BEC Growth

  • Since 2007, the BEC has grown from a staff of three to 11 employees,
  • including seven relationship managers who handle more than 1,200 corporate partnerships.
  • 2015 overall revenue was $116.4M,
  • a 12% annual increase.
  • Of that revenue, $37.9M was corporate philanthropy,
  • and corporate research expenditures totaled $78.5M.

Through large university-wide research initiatives, such as the Mobility Transformation Center and the soon-to-be-announced Data Science Initiative, the BEC has grown corporate engagement on campus. BEC is also actively reaching out to faculty and research administrators as part of an internal marketing campaign to better inform them about what the BEC does, and how their support can assist investigators and units in achieving their research and philanthropic goals.

For more information about the BEC, visit their website.

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