Aug 7, 201811:37 AMInside Wisconsin
with Tom Still
How I spent my summer vacation: Talking about research
(page 1 of 2)
At a time of the year when many college students are holding down a summer job or simply hanging out, about 120 University of Wisconsin System students gathered in Kenosha in late July to talk about their research projects.
From the use of botanical extracts to control aggressive cats to a device to fix faulty golf swings, and from “smart” polymers to the prospect of using plastic foam-eating mealworms to feed fish, the student projects covered a range of scientific, business, and societal topics.
They were all part of a conference at UW–Parkside produced by the WiSys Technology Foundation, which is helping to tap into ideas from students and faculty in much of the UW System.
While the state’s public doctoral universities, UW–Madison and UW–Milwaukee, are the main sources of research within the system, the 11 comprehensive campuses are also churning out ideas — including some that offer commercial and company startup potential.
Helping to patent, license, and otherwise nurture those ideas is the role of WiSys, which was created to manage intellectual property on UW campuses outside Madison and Milwaukee. It’s a spinoff of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which has been doing the same for the Madison campus since the 1920s.
Invention disclosures on UW campuses outside the Big Two have climbed steadily of late, with 64 invention disclosures — ideas reported by students and faculty — in the 2016–17 reporting year. In that same year, 12 patents were issued, and others are in the pipeline. Three licensing deals were executed, and dozens of campus-based proposals received some sort of seed funding.
In fact, rankings by the California-based Milken Institute showed WiSys is slowly making its mark in terms of turning research into patents, products, and companies. Earlier this year, Milken ranked WiSys 125th in the nation when it comes to issued patents, licensing agreements, licensing income, and startups. That’s in the same neighborhood as Texas Tech, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, San Diego State, Oklahoma, and the UW–Milwaukee, which has a separate patent and license organization.
Those efforts were on display during the conference, which attracted about 250 people overall and featured the WiSys “Quick Pitch” finals, an innovation showcase with poster displays, panel discussions, and remarks by Dr. Thomas Krummel, a med-tech pioneer at Stanford University who holds a degree from UW–Parkside.
Also present were leading representatives from Foxconn Technology Group, which is building a production plant in nearby Racine County and has invested $1 million in a “Smart Cities/Smart Futures” competition aimed at teasing out ideas from Wisconsin’s public and private colleges and universities.