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Innovation initiatives at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

By Aaron Olver, University Research Park

You do not have to live near an ocean to take the plunge into innovation and entrepreneurship. While eight of the ten U.S. universities conducting over $1 billion of R&D each year are in states bordering an ocean, two of the nation’s research powerhouses – the University of Wisconsin – Madison and University of Michigan – are inland. The University of Wisconsin – Madison has been focused on making research useful to the world at least since 1925. In that year, a group of visionaries came together to patent a UW invention that promised to virtually eliminate rickets and created the oldest university technology transfer organization in the country, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation or WARF.

Today, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, WARF, and University Research Park work together to build a world-class startup environment here in Madison. Collectively, we support a number of innovation initiatives including:

  • Discovery to Product is a commercialization program that helps campus innovators plan, develop, commercially de-risk, and nurture early stage projects that could become startups or licensable technology.
  • @1403 is a campus focused co-working and innovation hub on campus. It’s home to Discovery to Product, the UW Law & Entrepreneurship clinic, Madworks Coworking @1403, and a number of business-focused student organizations.
  • MERLIN Mentors aims to create a larger pool of viable entrepreneurs by matching new entrepreneurs with experienced mentors drawn from Madison’s business community.
  • Entrepreneurons is a free seminar and networking session on a variety of topics related to innovation and entrepreneurship and held at the Wisconsin Institutues for Discovery (next door to @1403).
  • WARF Accelerator complements Discovery to Product by helping UW inventors develop their technologies scientifically and position them for commercial success with expert advice from a team of mentors, known as Catalysts.

Once companies launch, it’s our mission at the University Research Park to help these technology companies gain their footing and scale. And more and more, we’re working to nurture a cluster of regenerative medicine companies. Cellular Dynamics International (a Fujifilm company), a global leader in induced pluripotent stem cells therapies, grew out of ground-breaking research from Professor Jamie Thomson’s lab. Stratatech, a regenerative medicine company revolutionizing the treatment of burns and wounds with their skin substitute, grew out of the unexpected results of basic research in another UW lab.

Madison isn’t just about life science, though. In 1979, a UW computer science grad named Judy Faulkner started a healthcare IT firm here called Epic Systems. Today, Epic employs 10,000 people in the Madison area and will host half of the nation’s medical records. With the talent graduating from the university or emigrating from Epic, Madison is seeing an explosion of software and health IT startups. Last year, area startups raised over $114 million and helped make Madison the top city in the Midwest for venture capital investment per capita. Accelerators like gener8tor and coworking hubs like 100State and StartingBlock are popping up to fuel the trend.

With life science and engineering research rolling on campus, and health IT making Madison the second most concentrated place in the country for software, Madison is positioned to become a HealthTech Capitol. We may not have saltwater, but we’ve got an ocean of opportunity.

– Reposted from Rise of the Rest

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