17 Jun Southeastern Wisconsin Technology Collaboration
Racine, Wis. – Leaders of Milwaukee, Racine, and Waukesha counties signed an agreement Monday to cooperate and lend support to the expansion of the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation (CATI). The deal between the three counties is intended to increase the number of high-paying technology jobs at small- and medium-sized manufacturers in southeastern Wisconsin, in order to keep area innovations in technology from draining out of the region.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, Racine County Executive Bill McReynolds and Waukesha County Executive Dan Finley signed the agreement during a Greater Milwaukee Committee meeting at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
“There’s a short term and a long term goal. The short term one is to improve technology transfer from academia to business. This CATI is designed as a center to help to take good ideas, new technologies, and get them into production,” said Dan Finley, Waukesha County Executive. “The long term one – the reality is that southeastern Wisconsin isn’t competing with itself for business. We are competing with the rest of the world, and to that end, we need to put a single brand out there.”
Under the plan, each county’s current efforts toward technological advancement – the Milwaukee Country Research Park Corp., Racine’s Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation and the Racine County Economic Development Corp., and the Waukesha County Economic Development Corp. – will be joined in order to benefit southeastern Wisconsin as a whole.
“It’s going to greatly expand what we do on two fronts; our capacity to work with companies and our staff – hopefully with this successful federal grant that we’ve applied for as a partnership with HUD, that will give us additional dollars – and our reach,” said Matthew Wagner, Executive Director of CATI. “As an entrepreneurial venture, deal-flow is very critical to us in order to work with good companies with good projects in order to sustain this program and this venture in the long run.”
The tri-county alliance’s programming will be managed from a satellite operation, which will be established in the business incubator at the Milwaukee County Research Park with help from federal and private funding. In addition, Racine will provide the other two counties access to its private industry network.
“We all bring something to the table,” Wagner said. “CATI is bringing the actual programs, but the Milwaukee County Research Park and the Waukesha County Economic Development Corporation really bring the knowledge of what the company needs are within the areas. They’ll be able to help us in marketing, getting the word out that these services are available — adding us to their toolbox of services.”
This alliance is just one of many recent cooperative deals from across southeastern Wisconsin. The whole region has been creating business and technology alliances – both internally and also in collaboration with the Madison area.
In May, the Biomedical Technology Alliance, which consists of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, received $2.5 million from the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to fund its ventures. One of the Alliance’s aims includes the creation of a biomedical research facility that will include researchers from UWM and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
In addition, Milwaukee’s Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Medical School – along with their respective research counterparts, the MCW Research Foundation and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation – agreed last month to share information and contacts, collaborate on research opportunities, and work together on a tech transfer.
“Collaborations between Milwaukee and Madison are already going; … , the first step is to inform our faculties of this opportunity, and this will open the door for these kinds of things to happen on their own. One goal, on the research side of course, to identify new funding opportunities,” said Joseph Hill, director of the MCW Research Foundation.
“The second part of the alliance agreement relates to the sharing, or pooling, of intellectual properties – patents and discoveries,” he said. “These by themselves might be an incremental improvement to some existing technology or of limited interest to a startup, but if they’re combined with similar patents or discoveries, they would increase the value of that technology, and would decrease the risk to any licensee who might wish to take it. … On the technology transfer side, as we speak, two technology licensing folks – one from WARF and one from my staff – are together now calling on companies with our joint portfolios.”
While a number of reasons for this new wave of collaborations over technology in southeastern Wisconsin, most of those involved with the deals seem to agree that they’ve been motivated by an overall desire to increase jobs and innovation in technology all over the region.
Finley said that he expects Waukesha’s alliance with Milwaukee and Racine to build trust, and to build a foundation for bigger issues.
“I think the biggest thing is recognizing on one front that resources are limited, and in order to get the biggest bang for your buck and provide quality services, you do need cooperation,” Wagner said. “By working together, we can provide business development and economic development resources … to businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. Businesses aren’t really interested in political or geographic boundaries; they want the best possible services.”
Hill agrees: “Individually, we can only do so much to move Wisconsin bioscience forward, but collectively we can do a lot more, on a number of different fronts. Forming alliances, whether they’re for research or technology transfer will really increase Wisconsin’s visibility and competitiveness as a place to do creative science. Now, there may be specific interests on the part of specific partners and alliances, but that’s the broad objective that all of them have in common.”
“I think it’s exactly that we’ve recognized that we’re foolish to compete with one another, and that it’s best to compete againt the world with a single brand,” Finley said. “That’s really what’s pulling everybody together; we know our respective prosperities are inextricably linked. ”