Ann Arbor SPARK helps companies looking to grow, expand, or relocate find a space that suits their needs. From work environments at the SPARK Central Innovation Center in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor to commercial real estate options throughout the region, Ann Arbor SPARK has the resources and connections to facilitate your site selection.
A global destination for trailblazing OEMs, researchers, and entrepreneurs — the mobility ecosystem flourishes in Ann Arbor!
Michigan boasts a rich history in the mobility and advanced automotive sectors. The state currently employs nearly 1.2M people in the auto industry, twice as many as second-place Ohio. Michigan is also the number one state for automotive research and development spending $11.8 billion annually. Ann Arbor is located east of Detroit — the Motor City — making it a prime location for innovation and technology. Abundant resources for R&D along with talent make the city a leading contender on the global stage. Likewise, Ann Arbor’s tech-centered industry cluster continues to propel the region forward.
The Big Three — Ford Motor Company, GM, and Chrysler — have well-established roots in the region including headquarters within 60 miles of Ann Arbor. The expanded Toyota Motor North America Research and Development, Hyundai American Technical Center, and FordLabs are just a few of the many successful companies located in the Ann Arbor region. Currently, there are more than 200 auto industry firms in Washtenaw County employing over 20,000 people.
The largest sectors are those related to component manufacturing and research. A number of world-class testing sites are also housed in the region. In addition to testing vehicles, roads, and communication systems at The American Center for Mobility and Mcity, the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL) is a key benefit to companies who choose the region for R&D.
Top-tier institutions also help fuel this vibrant ecosystem. The University of Michigan continues to drive industry research and development and is part of the University Research Corridor. Additionally, Washtenaw Community College recently opened its Advanced Transportation Center — a facility committed to preparing professionals and skilled laborers for jobs in intelligent transportation, advanced manufacturing, and automotive services.
Ann Arbor SPARK Services and Resources
Business Development and Site Selector Services
Ann Arbor SPARK works closely with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan Works! Southeast, local municipalities, and other partners to facilitate business location and growth within the region. Our team can help make meaningful connections as well as identify office space and the skilled talent you need to achieve your goals.
Startup and Business Acceleration Resources
The SPARK entrepreneurial services team works closely with early-stage startups to expedite their success. A reliable advocate to help founders navigate the entrepreneurial ecosystem, SPARK offers desk space at our incubators in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, business accelerator grants to help achieve significant product development milestones, and mentoring opportunities with the area’s experienced business leaders. We’ve also teamed up with the Michigan Small Business Development Center to help our qualified clients apply for the Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund.
In addition to avenues for funding, SPARK initiatives promote mobility and advanced automotive programs in the region. a2Tech360, the annual weeklong series of events, features the region’s innovative companies and leaders. Attendees of the annual event, Ann Arbor Mobility Summit will hear from industry visionaries. Finally, angel investors and venture capitalists can hear pitches from early-stage startups during Invest360: Mobility.
Automotive and Mobility Sector Report Highlights
- Ann Arbor mobility sector includes 200+ firms
- 17 percent of all U.S. vehicle production and 11 percent of all North American vehicle production occurred in Michigan in 2019.
- $14 billion in business-funded automotive research development occurs in Michigan annually, making up 72 percent of the nation’s share.
- 2,200+ facilities with engineering, design, testing, and, validation capabilities are located in Michigan.
- Michigan is eighth in the nation for higher education R&D performance.
Ann Arbor Is One of the Most Connected Cities in the World
Local, state and national partners have transformed Ann Arbor into a real-world testing environment for advanced mobility infrastructure. The Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment is the largest operational, real-world deployment of connected vehicles and connected infrastructure in the world, spanning a full twenty-seven square miles across the City of Ann Arbor. Over 2,500 connected vehicles have been outfitted with state-of-the-art vehicle technology. Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration recently awarded $9.95 million to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to install twenty “smart intersections” to test how sensors can alert connected vehicles to obstacles hidden from the view of drivers.
Ann Arbor’s mobility community works in lockstep with partners in the surrounding area. In 2019, the Department of Transportation awarded a $7.5 million grant to the State of Michigan, the City of Detroit, the University of Michigan, and the American Center for Mobility to develop and test self-driving technologies. In 2020, the State of Michigan announced that it is partnering with Cavnue, LLC. to develop the Michigan Connected Corridor, which will be one of the longest continuous lengths of connected roadway in the world when complete. Stretching from Ann Arbor to the Mobility Innovation District in Detroit, the MCC will be equipped with cutting-edge technology that will enable continuous communication between cars and roads.
Recent SPARK Mobility and Advanced Automotive Projects
May Mobility, Mcity, and Ann Arbor SPARK recently announced the launch of A2GO, a new autonomous vehicle (AV) shuttle service. The free shuttle service launched to the public on October 11, 2021, thanks in part to a grant through the mobility efforts of the state of Michigan. Additional partners on A2GO include !important Safety Technologies, 4M, Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
How Ann Arbor, Michigan Became a Living Lab for City Mobility
In 2019, a Ford Motor Company project helped amplify Ann Arbor as a living laboratory for mobility innovation. The experimental City Insights platform and Simulation work was a joint effort to see data and simulation could help public sector officials explore mobility issues using dynamic metrics such as parking, transit, traffic, safety, and census data.
Transatlantic Automated Driving Alliance
Ann Arbor SPARK is working with AMZ Saxony to develop international partnerships to further R&D and technology projects between Michigan and Germany. The program also aims to leverage connected and autonomous testing facilities like the University of Michigan’s Mcity, American Center for Mobility, and Dekra in Germany. The first project under the program was launched in 2021. The project brings together innovative companies to develop and test an autonomous road sweeper.
Mobility Pilots: Innovative Startups
Ann Arbor SPARK has facilitated conversations and pilot developments between startups, industry, academia, and the public sector to access state and federal mobility grants. The Office of Future Mobility has recently announced the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform to provide grants to mobility and electrification companies looking to deploy their technology solutions in the state of Michigan.
Sample of Mobility and Advanced Automotive Employers
|Company Name||Regional Employees||Description|
|Toyota Motor North America Research and Development||2,310||OEM Research|
|Faurecia North America||1,820||Automotive Component Manufacturer|
|Ford Motor Company||755||Automotive Component Manufacturer|
|Martinrea||520||Automotive Component Manufacturer|
|KLA Corporation||400||Automotive Component Manufacturer|
|Hyundai American Technical Center||250||Research and Development|
|May Mobility||175||Autonomous Vehicle Development & Operations|
|SkySpecs||175||Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Software|
|AVL Ann Arbor Technical Center||60||Automotive Engineering and Testing|
|New Eagle||60||Mechatronics Controls Software|
|Phoenix Contact||50||Software – PC-based Controls|
|Mercedes-Benz Emissions Test Lab||40||Automotive Emissions Testing|
|Quantum Signal AI||40||Intelligence Sensing and Data Analysis|
Apply to Join our Startup Incubator
A member of the Ann Arbor SPARK entrepreneurial services team will be in touch to discuss how we can help bring your idea to life. This is the first step in participating in our Entrepreneur Boot Camp, becoming a client of one of our incubators, and getting introduced to our growing network of mentors and consultants. We can’t wait to connect with you!