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May 22, 201811:07 AMOpen Mic

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How university innovations change the world

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The university was deeply engaged in helping support that vision, and became part of the story all the way through to ultimately starting a company. The Fusion Institute became seriously involved in developing what they thought was a game-changing, globally significant technology. The institute was a great extension of the university to help this company be successful while trying to do something extremely difficult. Support from the people in the university network provided the courage required. Funding was secured from the government, venture capitalists, and the Morgridge Institute for Research.

In addition to the global impacts, SHINE will have an impact on the Wisconsin economy. It expects to create over 100 permanent jobs and to spend over $100 million on its facility construction project alone. From start to finish, SHINE is sourcing as much material, labor, and service as it can from Wisconsin companies, which at present numbers over 75 local firms.

Certainly, there are hurdles to face in replicating the scope and ambition of SHINE. We have a Midwestern culture — a Wisconsin culture — where people are very modest. We are probably more risk-averse and we’re not very good at accepting that failure is part of the learning curve. There is also a scarcity of organized financing. Both of these hurdles are slowly improving.

We’re upbeat about how we’re changing the culture within the university and we will soon have several more success stories now that people have gone out to try making a difference in the economy, as well.

SHINE is now in Janesville, an economically recovering city that was hit hard by the loss of a major employer and tough economic times. Janesville’s on the mend and doing very well, and SHINE’s been part of that story, hopefully a beacon of light.

We believe our combined voices in advocacy of university-inspired ideas help people understand the crucial link between the university and the community — the story of the Wisconsin Idea.

Greg Piefer is the CEO of SHINE Medical Technologies based in Janesville, Wisconsin. He is an alumnus of the UW–Madison College of Engineering. Ian Robertson is Dean of the UW–Madison College of Engineering. This commentary is part of a series of articles organized by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). For over 90 years WARF has promoted a cycle of innovation through advancement of University research discoveries to the market and reinvestment in research at UW-Madison. Comments on this piece are encouraged at wisconsinidea@warf.org. See warf.org or WARF’s Cycle of Innovation for more details on WARF.

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