The UW Innovation Grant is an annual competition for five years (2023-2028) that aims to develop and apply advancements in human knowledge and/or promote economic prosperity in the state of Wisconsin.

The competition arises from the Universities of Wisconsin 2023-2028 Strategic Plan. Three annual award recipients receive two years of seed funding to develop their proposal. After two years, one proposal will be selected for an additional three years of funding to further develop their proposal.

President Rothman announced the first round of awardees in January 2024.

2023 Award Recipients

2024 Call for Proposals

The 2024 call for proposals will be sent to Universities of Wisconsin chancellors in spring 2024.

For information, contact Stephen Schmid, special assistant in the Division of Academic & Student Affairs, at sschmid@uwsa.edu.

A Human-Centered Collaborative Approach to Designing an Energy-Efficient Wireless Sensor Network for Precision Agriculture

UW–Stout in collaboration with UW–River Falls

This project proposes an iterative, human-centered design approach to create an energy-efficient wireless sensor network (WSN) to support small farms in Wisconsin. WSN is a network of sensors that monitor conditions in an area such as temperature, humidity, and wind, and send data back to a central location. It is used in precision agriculture to monitor relevant environmental conditions to support farmer decision-making, enhancing profitability and the adoption of environmentally sustainable and regenerative practices. Our unique project is an interdisciplinary collaboration bringing together various engineering disciplines and social sciences, crossing campus boundaries, and engaging community and industry stakeholders in a design process resulting in a solution that meets local needs, is accessible to small farms, and increases adoption. We propose to bring local stakeholders into the design process at the onset, using the research expertise of social scientists to gather information about their needs and build empathy to better understand how this technology might fit into their daily lives. At all stages, the investigators of this project will connect with our agricultural community partners, incorporating feedback into the overall design created through the expertise of the engineering team. In addition to interdisciplinary expertise, we have connections with key stakeholders as evidenced by our letters of collaboration. Given the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy, especially the importance of smaller farms to the continued health, prosperity, and sustainability of small, rural communities, creating innovative and accessible technology in the agricultural sector will have a large impact across the state. By involving university students across diverse disciplines, and training stakeholders in the technology, we also contribute to workforce development in both technical and human skills areas such as communication, collaboration, and leadership.

The human-centered design process will help ensure the technologies meet the needs of small farmers and fit into their lives and farming practices, making them more likely to be adopted.

Tina Lee, professor, social science, UW-Stout

Phytoremediation of PFAS in Wisconsin Soils using Hemp and Alfalfa

UW-Stevens Point in collaboration with UW-Madison

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of man-made chemicals with widespread use in industrial applications. Because of their exceptional stability and high-water solubility, PFAS are persistent in the environment. Unfortunately, studies suggest PFAS are correlated with a number of health problems, including kidney and testicular cancer, liver, thyroid, and reproductive problems, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, low birthweight and increased risk of birth defects, among others. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has identified over 100 sites around the state that are known to be contaminated with PFAS or are currently under investigation for remediation of PFAS. The ubiquitous presence of PFAS, coupled with adverse environmental and health effects, poses a threat to residents in Wisconsin, and therefore remediation of contaminated sites merits investigation. The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point and the University of Wisconsin Madison are requesting funds to (i) evaluate the ability of hemp (Cannabis sativa) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) to remove PFAS from soil through a process termed phytoremediation (i.e., the uptake of contaminants using plants). (ii) determine how and where PFAS are stored in plant tissues and (iii) understand how soil quality and the soil microbial community influence PFAS remediation. Phytoremediation has been demonstrated for the removal of heavy metal and chlorinated contaminants from soils and is an attractive remediation strategy as large amounts of soil do not need to be removed and replaced. Alfalfa and hemp are ideal phytoremediators as they allow for the rapid recovery of affected soils.

We are excited about the amazing opportunities that we will be able to offer our students while working on this project.

Brian Barringer, associate professor, biology, UW-Stevens Point

Technology, Education, Access, Communities and Healthcare: TEACH toward a Healthy Rural Wisconsin

UW Oshkosh in collaboration with ThedaCare

The purpose of this innovation project is to reduce barriers to accessing healthcare in rural Wisconsin by providing residents with a well-prepared nursing workforce to meet their telehealth needs. Through an academic-practice partnership between the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) College of Nursing and ThedaCare, the current and future nursing workforce will be educated on telehealth skills to improve rural chronic illness outcomes. An evidence-based telehealth-education infrastructure will be established by creating a flexible curriculum housed in UWO and incorporated into operational workflow of home health and telehealth services. This proposed project is significant in that it enhances the student experience and workplace readiness, engages the university with existing industry resources, expands the University's reach into rural and remote regions of the state, and has the potential to impact the quality of life and economic prosperity for families and communities impacted by chronic disease. The proposed project is innovative in its potential to transform the practice of current and future Wisconsin nurses, apply existing knowledge to the local context of rural Wisconsin, and elevate Wisconsin into a leadership role regarding innovative initiatives to improve rural health outcomes. This project is feasible through a commitment from a strong industry partner combined with the nationally recognized clinical expertise of UWO College of Nursing faculty, as well as a long-standing mission from both organizations to target resources toward regional needs that align with federal and state priorities such as telehealth expansion. This project is sustainable, given its emphasis on knowledge utilization and the creation of curricular pathways that, once developed and implemented, are not over-reliant upon costly equipment or recurring outside investments.

We’re addressing a missed opportunity for this project, which will guide our current and future nursing workforce to play a greater role in supporting rurally located patients with chronic illness with the use of telehealth.

Seon Yoon Chung, dean of the College of Nursing, UW Oshkosh