“Every UW campus should be considered a great community partner to businesses.”

As one of the largest public employers in the state, the UW System and the Board of Regents have a broad set of responsibilities. As the chair of the Research, Economic Development, and Innovation (REDI) Committee, Tim Higgins of Appleton, Wisconsin, is working to identify and build connections that link the UW System talent and research capabilities with businesses, entrepreneurs, and agencies.

As an experienced business leader, Higgins is the owner of ChiRho Services, a healthcare management company and has served on many committees and boards. But his most recent endeavors as part of the board have exposed his passion about the integration of business with the UW System and the future of Wisconsin’s economic growth.

Higgins explains that the strategic plan the REDI Committee has endorsed since its creation in 2012 has been to “…focus on creating jobs in Wisconsin, and part of the process of creating jobs is that we heavily involve our undergraduate students in research and internships.” As a result, this focus creates a dual payout, “with positive impacts on the education process and an increase in the graduation rates.”

After visiting each four-year campus and meeting with the Chancellors to talk about overall economic development opportunities, Higgins and his fellow Regents have a strong grasp on the priorities they need to set. Some of these priorities are to increase connections with entrepreneurs, to help early-stage development with licensing and funding, and to create a better dynamic between the public and private sectors.

Moving forward with the Board of Regents and the REDI Committee, Higgins feels that a closer partnership with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is important in order to develop a better process that fosters the early-stage development of products. Creating this “means that we have to be able to go out on the campuses and identify faculty members who have products that are commercializable, and make it easier for them to do this.”

In the future, the REDI committee will be committed to working with inventors to create products, breaking down the barriers for faculty members to be able to work with local businesses, and to making it more attractive for staff and students to engage in entrepreneurial activity. This is easier said than done, as Tim admits, and this will have to be done in a creative and supportive manner.