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Ann Arbor Spark


Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to a top-ranked public university and a broad range of advanced industries and markets. This diversity fosters a resilient region with a rich talent pool. Ann Arbor SPARK, the regional economic development organization, works with private, public, nonprofit, and academic organizations to retain and attract companies, as well as nurture startups. 

The University of Michigan (U-M) ranks among the world’s top universities and its graduate and professional programs are consistently listed among the nation’s top ten. As with many college towns, the university is the region’s largest employer.

For international companies looking to start doing business in the U.S., check out our international soft-landing toolkit.

A graphical representation of Ann Arbor's major tech markets and some of the companies located here.

Key Regional Industries and Markets

Research & Development

With expenditures in excess of $1.5 billion, research is at the heart of U-M. This focus significantly influences additional R&D efforts in the region. Frequently, companies grow within the university and then spin out to find a permanent home and much success in Ann Arbor. SkySpecs is just one example of the supportive relationship between the university, SPARK, and the downtown tech community.

Ann Arbor also attracts a high caliber of companies such as KLA Corporation which selected the area as the location for its new R&D center. In less than a year, KLA announced it was quickly elevating its plans to establish a second North American headquarters here.

Noteworthy is the region’s reputation as a vibrant hub for automotive and mobility R&D efforts. Companies ranging in size from OEMs, such as the Toyota Motor North America R&D Headquarters, to innovative startups like New Eagle, call the Ann Arbor region home. Learn more about the area’s automotive and mobility impact

Data Security

Ann Arbor has quickly emerged as a leader in data security. This distinction was accelerated with the success of Duo Security, which was acquired by Cisco in 2018. As a result, numerous startups focusing on different security markets have sprouted in the area. Two such startups, Censys and Blumeria, both have a number of Duo alumni contributing to the companies’ growth. Other industry leaders like Netscout and Barracuda have a long and significant presence within the region. 

IT & Software Platforms

Information technology and software platforms span vertical markets, and are often the environment where consumers intersect with business. Whether its through academic database portals like those from ProQuest or the advanced supply chain analytics provided by LLamasoft, these platforms are often the key deliverable that define a business.

Software Development & Consulting

Nurturing the growth of tech companies in the Ann Arbor region is a niche of software development and consulting companies supporting innovation efforts. Incubators of great talent, service, and results — shops like Atomic Object, Accenture Industry X.0 (at the Forge), and Nexient bring to life state-of-the-art developments in their clients’ products. 

Artificial Intelligence

Some might contend that artificial intelligence and machine learning are the 21st century’s fastest and strongest growing markets. This is likely due to the vast influence AI innovation will have on almost every industry. One closely watched implementation of AI innovation is in connected and autonomous vehicles. However, many data security companies are also adopting AI and machine learning to improve their products and services. 

Because AI has so many uses, there is a wide range of companies in the Ann Arbor region dedicated to its evolution. One example is Clinc, a University of Michigan spin-out which focuses its efforts on conversational AI. Meanwhile, Saganworks applies AI in its three-dimensional immersive experiences.

Life Sciences

While Ann Arbor’s life sciences sector has seen rapid growth over the past decade, we’ve always been an innovator in the biotech industry. For example, the heart-lung machine used in the first heart transplant was developed and manufactured here. 

Another industry with strong ties to the research done at the university healthcare system Michigan Medicine, the region has a particularly large presence of medical device companies. Companies such as Terumo Cardiovascular Group demonstrate a significant level of expertise in the field. In addition to medical devices, the region is also home to a vast array of pharmaceutical, digital health, and biotechnology companies. 

Read more in the Ann Arbor SPARK Life Sciences Sector Report.