19 May UW Office of Corporate Relations nears one-year mile-mark
First-year focus on business community, UW campuses
MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of Corporate Relations is approaching its first full year of service. July 1 will mark the office’s one-year anniversary of receiving its charge from UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley to provide assistance and guidance to business community members seeking activities and resources from within the UW System.
For a new branch of the university, and one that lacked a physical office until November 2003, OCR has a growing list of accomplishments. According to Patrick Strickler, director of communications for OCR, the office’s success lies in its ability to reach out to both the business and academic communities in Wisconsin.
“By midyear [OCR had made] 300 business contacts, and that’s steadily growing. The area of accomplishment in our first year is in the number of meetings, the number of companies we’ve met with and beyond,” Strickler said. “Charlie [Managing Director Charles Hoslet] personally briefed the deans of all the two-year campuses and UW Extension to explain how Office of Corporate Relations is set up to work with them. By the end of May, he will have met with all of the four-year universities as well. As we go forward and work with businesses in Fox Valley or Chippewa Valley, we do so in concert with colleagues at those campuses.”
The most common questions and requests the OCR handles, according to Hoslet, are from businesses looking for recruiting assistance and continuing education through the UW System.
“With the economy coming back, companies are beginning to look to reinvest in executive education for their employees to stay abreast of the trends in whatever field they’re in,” Hoslet said. “Technology is a good example because the rate of change of technology is so great that literally, in some fields, knowledge today is obsolete three to five years from now.”
Hoslet added that OCR’s services are not used by Wisconsin-based companies exclusively, as it has recently interacted with companies located in Cleveland, Ohio and Phoenix, Ariz.
OCR has a number of events planned designed to continue advising and educating members of the business community, UW System faculty, staff and students. June 3 will mark the first of several technology and life sciences showcases. The first in the series, titled “Bionanotechnology: Nanotechnology Meets Bioscience: R&D and Business Opportunities in the Bionanotech Convergence Zone,” is being put on in conjunction with the UW-Madison College of Engineering.
“[The events] will showcase a particular area of technology for businesses and on-campus research going on that business in a particular industry might be interested in taking advantage of,” Hoslet said. “We want to partner with other campuses and do a regional technology showcase … to highlight resources that a particular campus has … rather than expecting companies to come to Madison all the time, we can hold events close to where they are.”
Reaching out to venture capital and angel networks is also a part of OCR’s continuing mission by providing an environment where investors can investigate on-campus research and university spinoffs while researchers simultaneously learn about financing opportunities.
“There has been an interest among the investment community in finding out about and tapping into research on campus that’s spinning off into companies. Twelve or 13 companies spin off a year from the UW campus, based on university technology,” Hoslet said.
Before OCR was mandated, the Office of University Industry Relations bridged the gap between business’ needs and UW research. That office did not, however, fully serve the business community, Hoslet said.
“Their niche was working with companies with R&D needs. That office did not address the broader needs of the business community – recruiting questions, continuing education – what our office serves is a whole spectrum of needs rather than a narrow, but important, sector with R&D,” Hoslet said.
Hoslet added that most universities handle the type of activity OCR oversees through technology-transfer offices, similar to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. WARF’s purpose revolves around patent and licensing of university technology and not business outreach.
“[Other universities] concentrate more on R&D and technology transfer needs than trying to cover a broader spectrum. I think we’re somewhat unique but point to a couple of universities that have been doing that for a long time,” Hoslet said.
Partnership with WARF and Research Park
OCR plays an important role alongside WARF and University Research Park. The three entities co-sponsor events, develop publications and enjoy a “seamless” relationship, according to Hoslet.
One of OCR’s staff members is located at Research Park and advises companies in grant writing, Hoslet said. Additionally, WARF and OCR recently published a guide intended for UW faculty and staff interested in starting a company, “A Guide for New Business Ventures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” which is the first of its kind, Strickler said.
“Both [WARF Managing Director] Carl Gulbrandsen and [University Research Park Director] Mark Brugher have demonstrated excellent working relationships with us and as result, we can go to market in a more cogent way to express … the intellectual assets of UW to the business world,” Stickler added.
Quintessence Biosciences, a biopharmaceutical company located in University Research Park, is utilizing OCR’s media resources. According to Laura Strong, Quintessence Biosciences vice president, the company is working with OCR on a business profile which will be published in a newsletter.
“Having one common place on campus where the resources of the university are clearly explained to outside companies is really valuable to people in the community,” Strong said.
Kristin V. Johnson is the Associate Editor of WTN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.