Cultivating talent and collaboration quickly surfaced as central themes of WUWM’s Project Milwaukee panel discussion on innovation and the economy. Insiders shared ideas for how Milwaukee can become and remain competitive in innovative fields.
Researchers at companies and universities may be tempted to hold their cards close to the vest. But Brian Thompson says in Milwaukee that “silo thinking” will get you nowhere. Thompson heads UW-Milwaukee’s Research Foundation.
“If you look at just UWM, we do about $60 million in research. But if you put all of the Milwaukee institutions together, including Marquette and MSOE and the Medical College and Concordia, that’s about $250-300 million in research, and we have to band together in ways that you wouldn’t have to if you were at a single, large research institution,” Thompson says.
Thompson says a large institution, such as UW-Madison with its worldwide reputation, has a research budget about four times that of the Milwaukee institutions, combined. Yet he says the local universities are carving out their own path by developing partnerships.
“We’re doing that in water, we’re doing that in energy, we’re doing that in health care. So I think we’re already finding that the institutions in Milwaukee are connected in a way, just because that’s how we compete,” Thompson says.
“There’s definitely so much more power in all of our numbers together,” says Carrie Bristoll-Groll, a civil engineer and founder of Stormwater Solutions Engineering. It develops systems to manage storm water and control flooding. Bristoll-Groll says the firm looks for innovative techniques. So it made sense to locate in the Global Water Center in Milwaukee. It houses water-related businesses and research firms.