Michigan Tech Acquires Altarum Research Division

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Michigan Technological University has entered into an agreement with the Altarum Institute of Ann Arbor to purchase its Environmental and Emerging Technologies Division (EETD), the university announced today.

Altarum, which recently set its strategic course on becoming the nation’s preeminent provider of objective health systems research, has been looking for a buyer for its Environmental and Emerging Technologies Division. Altarum has sought to keep the division and its 26 high-tech jobs in Michigan.

The purchase is funded by a gift from the House Family Foundation, established by retired president of Nortel Networks and former Intel executive Dave House, a Michigan Tech alumnus.

The arrangement was attractive to Michigan Tech in part because the division’s strengths in sensors and signal processing and in earth sciences dovetail with some of the university’s most active research programs.

“It’s a great fit for us,” said Michigan Tech Provost David Reed. “It increases our capacity for graduate studies and research in the key areas of engineering and the environment. And it helps us fulfill our charge from the state, to help build Michigan’s capacity to thrive in a knowledge economy.”

In particular, the agreement responds to priorities set by the Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth. “Michigan Tech has always been aligned with the Cherry Commission’s aim of promoting the commercialization of university research,” said Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz. “By bringing Altarum’s Environmental and Emerging Technologies Division into the Michigan Tech fold, we are furthering opportunities for innovation and anchoring those commercialization opportunities here in Michigan.”

When Altarum decided to spin off the Environmental and Emerging Technologies Division, one of its priorities was to keep those jobs in Michigan. “We’re very pleased that EETD will remain in Ann Arbor and will continue to create jobs and be a leader in advanced environmental and national security technology development,” said Altarum President Ken Baker.

EETD Senior Vice President, Robert Shuchman, who will codirect the new institute, calls joining Michigan Tech “a wonderful opportunity.”

“Our group was once the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, which came out of the University of Michigan,” he said. “Now we’re going back into an academic setting where leading-edge technology is paramount and it’s where we belong. We see tremendous synergies between Michigan Tech and us. There are no downsides.”

House, who earned his electrical engineering degree from Michigan Tech in 1965, has been committed to programs that improve the national ranking of both the university and its Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The best students go to the universities with the best reputations. A university’s reputation is derived from its faculty, and particularly from its research oriented faculty. For Michigan Tech to become a top, nationally ranked research university it needs to increase its research-oriented faculty and its research programs,” he said. “The Environmental and Emerging Technologies Division will give an immediate boost to Michigan Tech’s research program, which will aid in recruiting the best faculty and the best students.”

Altarum’s Environmental and Emerging Technologies Division currently has gross annual research revenues of $4 million, and it has additional potential to ratchet up programs already in place at the university.

Net revenues from the research division will be set aside until $1 million is accumulated to establish an endowed professorship to be named by the House Family Foundation. “I applaud the administration for thinking outside the box,” House said. “It’s encouraging that they’re willing to do something unique. Both the acquisition and the professorship will help us attract and retain top-level, research-oriented faculty, and that’s what we need to do to become a nationally ranked research university.”

“This will make it very easy for us to collaborate with some very smart people,” said Michigan Tech geophysicist Roger Turpening, whose work focuses on oil and gas exploration. “It’s a win-win situation. We’ll have access to their signal processing expertise, and they’ll be able to tap into our strengths in seismic imaging.”

“This is a great opportunity to help move Michigan Tech into the major leagues of focused research,” said Wayne Pennington, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences. “Michigan Tech is a leader in applied sciences, and this will be great for us. I’m chomping at the bit to start working with them.”

Tim Schulz, chair of electrical and computer engineering, concurred. “This is an excellent way to jumpstart substantial growth in our research,” he said. “They are a very strong research group, I’m very excited about the prospects for collaboration between them and our faculty.”

Electrical and computer engineering professor Michael Roggemann said the addition of a new research institute in Ann Arbor will be a huge benefit to Michigan Tech. “We’ll have better access to students downstate and vastly extended opportunities for good research and faculty development,” he said. “Plus, acquiring them as a research institute is like acquiring a star pitcher. Your team is instantly better.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.