University of Michigan - Business Engagement Center

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Business Engagement Center
(734) 647-1000
Engineering Office
(734) 647-1579
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(734) 615-5060
U-M Dearborn Business Engagement Center
(313) 593-5639
U-M Flint Business Engagement Center
(810) 424-5449

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MCRN - Michigan Corporate Relations Network

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Mbusiness Link - A publication of the University of Michigan Business Engagement Center

MBusinessLink is a quarterly e-newsletter produced by the University of Michigan's Business Engagement Center. The publication brings together all of the news on events, research, resources, and opportunities for industry engagement at the University of Michigan.

TRW Automotive Teams Up with University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Wayne State to Improve Passanger Safety

Launched in 2011 with a $1.8 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan Strategic Fund, MCRN is the nation’s first statewide university business engagement network. Partner institutions include the University of Michigan, which serves as the project lead, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. Instant Innovation Sessions are one of the MCRN outreach programs available to Michigan businesses. For a complete list of the programs available, visit


Rear seats pose a big safety challenge to automotive engineers, for a variety of reasons. Children, the most frequent back-seat passengers, have twice the rate of head injuries in rear crashes as adults. And elderly adults seated in the rear have twice the number of thorax injuries as children. Adding to the problem is the relatively low rate of rear seat belt usage.

TRW Automotive, a global producer of advanced automotive safety systems, has been studying the topic of rear seat safety for years. So when BEC Executive Director Stella Wixom suggested an Instant Innovation Session devoted to the issue, the company agreed. As an outreach program of the Michigan Corporate Relations Network (MCRN), Instant Innovation Sessions pair Michigan companies with faculty experts for half-day brainstorming sessions focused on specific business challenges.

Last November, engineers and senior staff from TRW automotive met with faculty from the U-M Transportation Research Institute and Wayne State University to discuss game-changing ways to improve safety for rear seat occupants. Hosted by BEC and co-funded by a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and matching funds from TRW Automotive, the session was so productive that TRW decided to move forward with a follow-up session that will expand the field of experts even further.

"The BEC and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute were instrumental in applying and obtaining a MEDC grant that, along with the matching funds from TRW, helped bring to life not only one, but two, instant innovation sessions. This was particularly needed when it was realized after the first session, the group needed to move forward with a follow-up session and expand the field of experts even further as we work to prioritize actions that will help enhance rear safety strategies in the future." said John Wilkerson, Senior Communications Manager at TRW.