Earth moves on dream for biomedical center

The dream of an Innovation Campus in the heart of the biomedical cluster in the Milwaukee region is no longer a dream.

Ground is breaking on the first building for the University of Milwaukee’s bold move to connect more closely to the Medical College of Wisconsin; the Milwaukee County Research Park, the location of GE Healthcare; the Milwaukee regional medical complex; and the Blood Research Institute.

It’s a marriage of major players that offers a huge upside, even a transformation, of how the regional economy works.

David Gilbert, president of the UWM Foundation (UWMF), which has done the heavy lifting over the last six years to get the ambitious project moving, said the collection of biomedical resources will be the 7th largest such concentration in the country.

The first building on the campus will be an Innovation Accelerator, a modern 25,000 square foot space that will allow academic scientists and engineers to work with counterparts from the private sector. Companies that want to benefit from academic R&D will be able to rent quarters in the $5.5 million facility.

UWM hopes to convince engineering companies to co-locate on the 72-acre campus.
The land was bought for $13.5 million from the county, and the Foundation is raising $10 million to pay down its obligations for the purchase.

An example of the synergy that will be in play on the campus is a recent $1 million commitment over four years from GE Healthcare for catalyst R&D grants. As part of the deal, UWM will create a new 15-credit graduate certificate course in advanced computational imaging. Engineers with such credentials are a prime resource for GE.

A second larger building for the campus is already in the works. An inter-disciplinary facility, it’s scheduled to launch in 2015.

Give credit to the partners in the dream. The City of Wauwatosa is putting $2 million into supporting infrastructure. The federal Economic Development Agency is providing most of the funds for the accelerator. Building. The UWM Real Estate Foundation put all the pieces together. The Mandel Group will be bringing investment for the residential component on the campus.

Wisconsin has fared poorly in getting its fair share of federal research institutes. Our statesmanlike congressmen don’t play that game vey well.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who ran for and lost a U.S. Senate seat last month, promised in his campaign to try to land a Federal Institute of Freshwater Technology for the Milwaukee region. The winner of the senate seat, Tammy Baldwin, should be big enough to pick up on that good idea. She could win some points in Southeastern Wisconsin if she would pick up the mantle on that grand concept.

That said, it’s reassuring to see local leaders take the initiative to position the region as a major biomedical player what’s become known as the innovation economy.

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