WHITEWATER, Wis. – In its first major report to the Board of Regents, the Research to Jobs Task Force presented about two dozen recommendations on ways to create jobs through UW-led research and increasing the technology transfer to Wisconsin companies.

“If we make the small investments, we’ll get big returns,” said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and chair of the task force.

UW System President Kevin Reilly created the task force in February to find ways to improve the UW research, patent and commercialization process as part of the UW System’s larger Growth Agenda mission.

“Long ago, the University helped Wisconsin shift from an agricultural economy based on wheat to one based on dairy. Today, the University must help Wisconsin transition to an economy where virtually all industries and all sectors depend on knowledge and innovation,” Reilly said.

The task force’s recommendations focused on three main topics: better connections to Wisconsin’s industry needs; promoting entrepreneurship; and gaining a competitive advantage for students in high-paying jobs through research and development training.

The recommendations include actions that can be taken by the UW System and individual campuses, and suggestions for the private sector and State government that will improve start-up activities within the UW System and Wisconsin.

Gulbrandsen noted that while job growth through start-up companies is generated through the two major research campuses of Madison and Milwaukee – and efforts to further stimulate company formation in these two regions must be supported and strengthened – the task force also identified an opportunity to engage the UW System comprehensive campuses and Wisconsin’s small companies in creating jobs through UW-industry partnerships.

“We have great expertise at our comprehensive colleges, we are doing great things, and often we don’t trumpet it enough. We need to get over that,” Gulbrandsen said. “It is stunning and the people of Wisconsin ought to know this, as should the legislature.”

The task force also recommended that a focused effort at the UW System and individual campus levels must be carried out to incentivize research efforts, nurture entrepreneurship among faculty and students, and effectively communicate to the public UW’s role in economic growth.

Addressing the issue of cost, Gulbrandsen told Regents that setting up infrastructure “is going to be costly but you aren’t going to do it without that.” He noted that federal dollars might be available to support these efforts.

“This is the future and this is how we marry up with industry. More importantly, we (have to) work with the legislature to move the state forward. This is not partisan at all. It’s about how we work together,” said Regent David Walsh.

At the meeting, Reilly also announced the formation of a new UW System Task Force on Internationalization and Economic Development. The group will examine how expertise throughout the UW System can be tapped to help attract international investment and promote growth in international markets.

David J. Ward, former Interim Chancellor at UW-Green Bay and president/founder of NorthStar Economics, and Gilles Bousquet, dean of the Division of International Studies at UW-Madison, will co-chair the task force.

In a related matter, UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer announced that a $4.7 million federal Economic Development Administration grant was awarded Thursday to the Whitewater University Technology Park to help fund the Innovation Center and park improvements. The Innovation Center is designed to foster the development of new business-based research conducted by UW-Whitewater faculty and staff and their business partners and is expected to create several hundred jobs in the future.

“The Whitewater University Technology Park will be a great addition to the City of Whitewater and the UW-Whitewater campus,”Richard Telfer said. “This joint project will give our faculty and staff and students yet another way to expand the reach of the campus into the region. The research and development that will take place at the Whitewater University Technology Park will have a positive impact on the future economic growth of southeastern Wisconsin. UW-Whitewater is pleased to be a key player in this project.” See UW-Whitewater news release

Regent President provides legislative visit updates

Regent President Charles Pruitt provided Board members with an update on recent legislative visits. He noted that he and Student Regent Aaron Wingad had visited the Capitol to appear before the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education for their Regent confirmation hearings. While at the Capitol, they took the opportunity to visit several legislative offices, meeting with Majority Leader Russ Decker; Assembly Speaker Rep. Mike Sheridan; Rep. Kim Hixson, Chair of the Assembly Colleges & Universities Committee; and Rep. Steve Nass, ranking member of the same committee.

Pruitt reported that President Reilly also continues to have regular meetings with both higher education committee chairs, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and Rep. Kim Hixson.

Pruitt told Regents that President Reilly has been asked to accompany Governor Doyle on an upcoming trade mission to China. While there, Reilly is expected to meet with other university officials, as well as leaders in government and commerce. “Many UW institutions already have established ties with universities in China, so this is a good opportunity to build on those strengths,” Pruitt said.

Human Resource System implementation approved

After a brief discussion, the Regents voted 15-2 to approve the Human Resource System (HRS) implementation budget for fiscal year 2010 and the overall project implementation plan, contingent upon several new safeguards to be added to UW System’s contract with Huron Consulting Group. In addition to other new provisions, that contract will include assurances that key consulting staff will remain on the HRS project team, which is led by UW System managers. If those consulting positions are vacant for any reason, Huron will be required to pay liquidated damages. In a worst-case scenario, UW System would have the right to hire Huron staff directly.

In other business, the Regents:

  • Approved a contract extension for the School of Early Development and Achievement, a charter school in Milwaukee;
  • Approved the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at UW-Madison;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s revised mission;
  • Approved two academic programs: the B.S. in Kinesiology at UW-Oshkosh and the B.B.A. in Entrepreneurship at UW-Whitewater;
  • Approved revised faculty personnel rules at UW-Extension and UW-Madison;
  • Approved a waiver of required doctor’s note for H1N1 flu for the 2009-10 academic year;
  • Approved a 3½-year Data Analysis agreement between UW-Madison and Pfizer, Inc.;
  • Approved a 3-year Data Analysis agreement between UW-Madison and Amgen, LTD;
  • Authorized a land use agreement at UW-Green Bay with University Village Housing, Inc. to permit the construction of two additional student residence halls;
  • Approved exercising the lease purchase option for 21 North Park Street on the UW-Madison campus;
  • Approved the continued planning of the UW-Madison Charter Street Heating Plant, including the release of $24.5 million in program revenue supported borrowing to complete planning to the design report and purchase equipment;
  • Approved a budget increase for the UW-Madison Physical Plant Shops and Office Building project;
  • Authorized the UW-Madison East Campus Utility Improvements project;
  • Authorized leasing space for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science Fundus Reading Center; and
  • Approved seven individual maintenance, repair and renovation projects under the UW System All Agency request.

The UW System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting October 15-16, 2009, at UW-Eau Claire

Related: Read September 10 (day 1) news summary