23 Jan Rockwell's $1M gift to UWM will support advanced automation research
Milwaukee, Wis. – Rockwell Automation’s gift of $1 million to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which is designed to support the advanced automation industry throughout southeastern Wisconsin, does not mean the university has forsaken life science as a technology transfer niche, according to the executive director of the university’s foundation.
Brian Thompson said the UWM-Rockwell partnership will focus on three areas of advanced automation – materials, sensors and devices, and software and informatics – and boost the university’s research agenda. Expanding the university’s research portfolio is one of the goals behind the Campaign for UWM fund-raising program.
“It kind of solidifies our direction,” Thompson said.
That direction will continue to include technology transfer involving biotechnology, he said, but is not limited to any one avenue.
Sujeet Chand, chief technology officer for Rockwell, and UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago, indicated the grant would help shape UWM’s teaching and research missions.
Santiago, who would like to increase the university’s $39 million research budget to $100 million within a decade, said the partnership also will complement the needs of area industry clusters like biomedical imaging, printing, and medical informatics.
In addition to creating a research infrastructure, he said the partnership will attempt to develop a skilled local workforce, and create opportunities for interdisciplinary teams to conduct research integrating technology, business, and science.
The grant, which will be distributed in five annual installments of $200,000, actually has two components – to be a catalyst for automation and to stimulate collaborative research and teaching between UWM’s College of Engineering and Applied Science and the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business. Rockwell Chairman and CEO Keith D. Nosbusch earned a master’s degree in business administration from the school in 1978.
The idea for the business school component, Thompson said, “is to build computer capability in information management.”
Meanwhile, UWM’s Research Foundation will create a catalyst grant program in the field of automation, and these grants will be awarded after a competitive review process.
Although not a motivation for this particular grant, another potential area for collaboration would be other institutions of higher learning in the Rockwell orbit, many of which are international. Rockwell, which has transformed itself into a developer of factory management software for industrial automation, recently endowed a lab to train engineers in Pune, India, a country with one-sixth of the world’s population that in 2005 enrolled 450,000 students in four-year engineering courses.
Rockwell also has supported engineering schools in Asia and Europe.
The gift is not expected to directly impact the university’s need to upgrade its engineering facility, but the catalyst program could generate early-stage ideas that lead to National Science Foundation funding. That, in turn, would provide a justification for improved facilities, Thompson said.
Former research dean Abbas Ourmazd cited the need to improve the university’s engineering, natural and life sciences, and water management facilities as a way to improve its research output. UWM’s last significant building project in the science, technology, engineering, math disciplines dates back to the early 1970s.
UWM’s Research Growth Initiative is designed to stimulate the kind of technology transfer that can transform Milwaukee’s economy, much like the University of Wisconsin-Madison has transformed Madison’s economy with life science research and Georgia Tech University has accelerated economic development in Atlanta.
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