EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – Describing university-based research and development as “one of the state’s most transformative investments,” University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross today said that the UW institutions are committed to helping Wisconsin’s businesses, industries, entrepreneurs and families succeed.
Cross made his remarks at the seventh annual Wisconsin Science and Technology Symposium in Eau Claire. Cross’s address was part of his day-long visit to the region, where he was scheduled to participate in a business roundtable, meet with area legislators, and tour the Oakdale plant of Smart Sand, Inc., a provider of industrial sand primarily serving the oil and gas industry.
During the opening session of the two-day symposium, Cross said university-based research and constituent engagement are essential steps needed to grow Wisconsin’s economy and improve its quality of life.
“The UW System is uniquely positioned to be a catalyst,” Cross said. “We need to work together to engage business and industry leaders and officials in Madison and Washington” to make the most of the UW System’s “brainpower and resources.”
“We need your help to amplify an important message: that UW research has been, and must continue to be, one of the most transformative investments” in improving the well-being of Wisconsin, Cross added.
Using a conservative economic multiplier, it’s estimated that the annual economic impact of investment in university-based research in Wisconsin is more than $1.4 billion. The latest available numbers indicate that the UW universities attracted $789 million in federal and private investment in 2013. Those dollars employed the full-time equivalent of more than 5,500 researchers, lab assistants, and support staff. They are also spent directly and indirectly on local goods and services.
Noting the broad educational and economic benefits that accrue, Cross said the UW System is already actively engaged in promoting greater research and innovation efforts systemwide. In February, the UW System announced the creation of the Ideadvance Initiative, a collaboration between the UW System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The initiative created a $2-million seed fund to help support entrepreneurs as they develop and advance their ideas. UW-Extension runs that program.
Cross also noted that $22.5 million in UW System Economic Development Assistance Grants will be offered over the next two years to help advance new educational and research initiatives that target both traditional and emerging industries in the state.
Last month, the UW Board of Regents approved two other initiatives that underscore the university’s commitment: the Research Block Grant Program, to support undergraduate research and partnerships, and the Regent Scholar Program, which encourages collaboration between faculty members and undergraduate students to partner with others to develop entrepreneurial ideas that promote job creation and economic development.
“There is much more we are doing—and want to do—to extend the knowledge and resources of the UW System from our classrooms, labs, and campuses to our partners and potential partners off-campus,” Cross said.
UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee are designated as the System’s research universities and have earned international reputations for research, innovation, and technology transfer, but the UW System’s comprehensive universities also have plenty of research success stories to tell, Cross said.
Through the WiSys Technology Foundation (WiSys), the comprehensive universities receive considerable support and advocacy to promote economic development and job creation, primarily through research into technology and science, Cross said. WiSys also facilitates licensing and patent protections.
WiSys organized the two-day symposium in Eau Claire. WiSys is affiliated with WARF, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.