Relations between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the state's business sector have undergone a wholesale reversal from 30 years ago, when academic researchers were discouraged from starting up companies and the school's idea of a research park was a farm. Today, Madison's University Research Park is a thriving business center, start-up incubator, and campus extension all in one. And faculty are now actively encouraged to go into business, even given the resources to do so. Intellectual licensing brings in a lot of money to the state, and companies bring jobs that pay well.
The partnership between GE and UWM is one case in point. Under the management of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the university's researchers get the best, most sophisticated equipment and ready markets for their invention, while GE receives access to the technology they produce. WARF is the designated patent management organization of UWM and a non-profit organization.
Radiation control devices are a specialty of the Department of Medical Physics, established in 1980, and the industry spawned by the department's research has been considerable. Because radiation equipment manufacturing, testing, and calibration are machinery-intensive, many of the spin-off companies founded by UWM researchers have stayed local and continue to benefit the Madison economy.
(Photo © UW-Madison University Communications)
With $1Billion in research conducted yearly at UWM, it is the 2nd highest-funded public university in the country and a competitor with Stanford, MIT and Michigan in attracting top research faculty and grants. In Wisconsin's current turbulent days of budget cuts, the state Governor, Scott Walker, has even floated the idea of splitting UW-Madison off from the larger UW system.
The separation would ostensibly give UWM more autonomy, allowing it to compete with the pricier research institutions in faculty compensation, for one. In exchange, it would get less support from the state financially. Whether this scenario will come to pass remains to be seen, but it's clear that the state regards UWM as a huge asset to leverage and knows that its researchers bring in the lion's share of university funding with their reputation (grants) and intellectual capital (licensing and start-ups).
See tomorrow's blog for more on Madison's University Research Park and it's new Metro Innovation Center.
To read more about UW-Madison and Wisconsin technology, follow Tom Still's Inside Wisconsin column at the Wisconsin Technology Council. Today's blog has relied heavily on his reporting for WTC and the Journal-Sentinel Online.
If you are a supplier of research equipment and would like to meet and network with others in the Madison life science research community, plan on attending one or both of Biotechnology Calendar's tradeshow events in Madison this September 7-8, 2011: