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UW plans entrepreneurship program to link campus resources

Entrepreneurs on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus will have a new resource to help them navigate the process of starting a company and the many related centers on campus.

The Office of Corporate Relations is heading the New Business Start-Up Initiative, which is to include events, publications and both one-ond-one and class-based training. This assistance will be available to UW=-Madison faculty, staff and students.

“We’re one of the national leaders in terms of patents that get issued for technologies developed on campus,” said Charles Hoslet, OCR’s managing director. “But we have not done as good a job as we can of taking those intelluctual properties and turing them into companies.”
OCR will be working with the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, an arm of the university’s business school. Larry Cox, the center’s director, said new additions to Grainger hall would open up room for an entrepreneur in residence, a private-sector businessperson who would donate their time to help evaluate ideas or give fledgling companies advice.

Companies may also receive help from business students.

“We have a class of our second-year MBA students who are majoring in entrepreneurship ... they’ll pick a project or business and consult with it,” Cox said. “Some of them come in and have an extensive background in some area.”
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Some of the planned programs in the business school have already begun, he said. OCR and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation have also published a guide for startups, available at the start-up initiative’s Web site. The guide focuses on the process of licensing UW-Madison technology and forming a business around it.

Hoslet expects most of the rest of the new program to be running by January.

WARF, in addition to co-sponsoring the initiative, will likely send hopeful entrepreneurs its way. The foundation is the hub of technology transfer at the university, licensing technologies deeloped there to businesses.

“Many of the startups come from our technology, so we’ve done joint programs with [OCR] to help figure out how the university ca help them succeed,” WARF spokesperson Andy Cohn said. The new initiative, he said, would give companies easier access to existing resources spread around campus.

The start-up initiative would not focus only on technology businesses, Hoslet said. Integration is a centerpiece of the program. Cox said that it would try to combine outreach, education and research rather than letting any element stand alone.

“The small business development centers do a terrific job of reahing out to the community, but they’re not involved in educating our MBAs, for example,” he said.

Hoslet said he hoped the initiative would encourage students as well as faculty, perhaps keeping an eye on the business school’s business-plan competition or the Tong Prototype Prize in the engineering school.

“Many of those [students], particularly the first-place winners, eventually go on to start a company,” he said.

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Jason Stitt is WTN’s associate editor and can be reached at jason@wistechnology.com.

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