03 Nov Grow Wisconsin resources for technology development
Editor’s Note:Cory Nettles, Wisconsin’s secretary of the Department of Commerce, shares his expertise and insights on the future of technology development in Wisconsin.
This feature is part is a series of special articles, interviews and columns that are appearing on the Wisconsin Technology Network (WTN). Titled, “FORWARD VISIONS,” these columns are designed to stimulate awareness, discussion and debate that will help to illustrate some of the great thoughts and technologies surrounding Wisconsin’s Health Science and Technology Recognition Week, November 1-7. Please make sure to visit wistechnology.com daily for latest news and installments of WTN’s VISION SERIES, as updates will be posted regularly, and between newsletters.
Grow Wisconsin Resources for Technology Development
High-growth technology companies add octane to the Wisconsin economy and promise challenging, rewarding and well-paying careers that can help us retain and attract the best and brightest. Wisconsin is an innovative state with many research-intensive companies and institutions, such as the UW-Madison, the Marshfield Clinic, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and the Medical College of Wisconsin. We rank with peer states like Colorado and North Carolina in patent intensity. We have a skilled, motivated workforce and a superb quality of life with top-ranked educational and health care resources, short commutes, and reasonable living costs. Wisconsin is a great place to start a business and build a life. In fact, Wisconsin is gaining a worldwide reputation in information technology, medical devices, and biotechnology.
What has been missing is a commitment to developing an entrepreneurial climate. Currently, Wisconsin is 47th in new business formation and 36th in venture capital investments. These rankings are unacceptable. We must become less conservative and risk-averse. Both government and private lenders must become more willing to invest in entrepreneurial ventures. We must work closely with our topflight researchers to help them commercialize their discoveries and manage the risks of starting their own businesses. We must also understand that an entrepreneur may not succeed in the first business venture, or the second or third. Instead of judging the entrepreneur a failure, we must accept and value his or her willingness to take risks and follow a vision.
That’s why fostering more entrepreneurial activity and promoting technology development are critical components of Governor Jim Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin plan. Let me detail a few of these initiatives:
A new state authority will leverage a minimum of $300 million over the next decade to invest in seed and early-stage companies to help convert scientific discoveries into high-paying jobs.
The Governor has called for the venture capital funds that received funding from the state of Wisconsin investment board and from the public health foundation that received millions from the sale of Cobalt Corporation to begin making investments as soon as possible.
A new $5-million initiative provides technical assistance, matching grants and bridge grants that will help researchers win Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and other federal funding and turn scientific discoveries into jobs.
We will increase investment in technology businesses by more than $38 million through the correction of Wisconsin’s technology zone tax credit program. Currently, companies without income tax liabilities cannot benefit from the tax credits. The Governor proposed making these tax credits refundable to help start-up companies that do not yet have profits.
Technology entrepreneurs can receive enhanced assistance from the UW System through WiSys Technology Foundation, a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). WiSys will assist the 25 UW System campuses, other than the UW-Madison, in patenting discoveries; licensing the technology to companies for commercial development; and returning the licensing revenues to the inventor, the university and the WiSys network. WARF is launching a new Wisconsin Technology Initiative to help license technology to Wisconsin companies.
At Commerce, in line with the Governor’s vision, we have established a bureau of entrepreneurship to consolidate and focus efforts to assist entrepreneurs. The bureau will:
Conduct outreach to emerging technology companies in Wisconsin, serving as a conduit between them and state, federal, and private sector resources, including those offered by Commerce; and
Operate an expanded program to help Wisconsin firms win federal funding for research and development, such as SBIR grants.
Commerce will also continue to support technology firms through its Technology Development Fund. Since 1998, the agency has made 54 awards totaling $13.7 million to assist technology research and development projects. With these new and existing resources, we stand ready to help grow Wisconsin’s technology sector. Technology businesses interested in learning more about Department of Commerce programs and services can contact Cheryl Gain, 608/261-7721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.