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Collaboration fuels real innovation

What do the new world-class athletic performance research center that Marquette University and Aurora Healthcare will create, the Global Water Center, UW-Milwaukee’s Innovation Campus and the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium’s Energy Innovation Center have in common? They all have at their core a collaborative partnership between universities and corporations. In fact, this collaboration is the fuel driving the economic and innovative potential of these ventures. And the results positively impact our region, creating a beachhead here for the kind of collaboration that has energized places such as the Centennial Campus in North Carolina and tech-savvy Austin, Texas.

The trend towards establishing partnerships between universities and corporations has increased across the nation. With the federal government flagging in its long-recognized role as a prime funder of academic research, funding for corporate-sponsored academic research has surged. In some cases, it’s preferred, since this type of collaborative research is highly synergistic and usually provides more benefit to all partners.

Universities that are committed to developing the next generation of talent and responding to the needs of industry recognize that engagement with corporations generates a win-win for all involved, especially our students who gain firsthand, real-world experience that is invaluable no matter what career path they take.

Marquette is one of those committed universities. We are uniquely placed to engage with companies in our region and beyond; offering both proximity to these industries and relevant research on campus that can provide valuable solutions. Rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach, we tailor engagement so each company’s needs are considered carefully as we find the right alignment with our faculty, staff and students.

While these interactions grow the research expertise of faculty and support the career development of students, corporations fund this research and enter into licensing collaborations because they see the potential for a significant return on their investment.

To cite a few examples, the 2016 model of GE Healthcare’s Revolution CT system achieves clearer images of the heart and key arteries without added radiation, thanks to an algorithm developed by Dr. Taly Gilat-Schmidt, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Marquette. In the water sector, Badger Meter is working to commercialize meter technology developed by Marquette Professor Emeritus Dr. Shrinivas Joshi that accurately and efficiently measures the flow of fluids using ultrasonic waves. Just six months after Marquette’s move into the Global Water Center, our faculty, staff and students are advancing 13 projects in areas such as wastewater treatment, desalination and water law with partners such as Zurn, A.O. Smith Corporation and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District.

Like water, the benefits of these partnerships flow in multiple directions — better prospects for our students, more highly trained talent, and strengthened relationships with innovative companies around the nation who become better networked with regional partners.

We at Marquette are excited to see firsthand how these strengthened university-industry relationships are becoming real change agents in our region. They are putting Milwaukee on the map for research and innovation in ways that will pay dividends for years to come.


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Carmel Ruffolo, PhD, is associate vice president for research and innovation at Marquette University and is director of the Wisconsin Center for Commercialization Resources.

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