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May 31, 201812:14 PMOpen Mic

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The Wisconsin Idea and regional economies: Apples falling from many trees

(page 2 of 2)

The university has worked with the city of River Falls, the River Falls Economic Development Corp., and the Chippewa Valley Technical College to develop a business innovation center to support 25 new and existing businesses or startups, many having connections to the university. Within five to 10 years, we expect it will include businesses launched by university students and alumni who are creating economic development and jobs for the region.

Innovation is often at the crossroads of disciplines and it can just as easily come from art, dairy science, data science, or education as from engineering or computer science. In universities throughout the country, entrepreneurial studies that once belonged to a single center are now rooted in a variety of schools and colleges. At UW–River Falls, innovation and entrepreneurship are infused into the curriculum through a three-course sequence open to all students: Imagination and Creativity for Innovation, Design for Innovation, and Innovation and Business Models.

Universities across our UW System are taking a focused approach to engaging our outstanding faculty and students in entrepreneurial endeavors and helping “falling apples” grow roots in our local communities. This requires collaborative thinking with our state’s business community and partners like WiSys, and a commitment to building an infrastructure that mentors and incubates early ideas into actionable enterprises.

It is important for university leaders to demonstrate that a UW campus is not an ivory tower or an island — it is the people’s university. We are connected to our communities, and innovation and economic development are among the many ways we live out the Wisconsin Idea, and seek to improve the lives of citizens across Wisconsin and the world.

UW–River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen is the second longest-serving chancellor in the UW System. Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. 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 See or WARF’s Cycle of Innovation for more details on WARF.

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