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New report says Wisconsin R&D spending exceeding expectations

Madison, Wis.—Wisconsin's research and development funding has exceeded expectations, reaching $3.6 billion in 2002, according to a new report. The state had set a target of $3.3 billion by 2005.

In 2002, the state ranked 20th nationally in private R&D spending per capita, and 13th in academic R&D spending.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find an industry to match the growth rate in R&D the last few years," said David Ward, president of NorthStar Economics , an economic consulting and research firm based in Madison that prepared the report. It was released Tuesday at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, held at Monona Terrace in Madison.

Meanwhile, the state is outpacing the national average in numbers of patents awarded.

In patents, the state ranked 16th in the nation in 1998, but stood at 13th as of 2001, the latest year for which data is available. Patents for new inventions, a subset of total patent numbers, stood at 1,864 in 2002, and dipped to 1,786 in 2003. The decline followed a national trend, according to the report.
Patent leaders include the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Marshfield Clinic, the Medical College of Wisconsin, GE Healthcare and Kimberly Clark.

Inventions don't necessarily translate into new jobs, however. Wisconsin still trails other states in its share of the high-tech workforce, though it is improving. In 1998, Wisconsin was 20 percent below the national average in numbers of high-tech workers; by 2004, the state was only 12 percent behind.

Out of a total state employment of 2,689,160 workers, high-tech accounted for 116,843 in 2004, the report says.

"We seem to be holding our own," Ward said. "The challenge is to convert that into jobs and businesses."

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, a group that advises state government on science and technology issues, called the report "good news."

"Wisconsin has made progress in important areas," he said.

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