Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
If you allow your imagination to wander, you can imagine a world ten, 15 or 20 years from now that is quite different.
Imagine a world where we are not going to our doctors to find out how to treat heart disease or diabetes, but how to prevent them. Imagine a world where we are not wondering how long it will be until our parents succumb to Alzheimer’s, but one where we can stop the disease from progressing.
Imagine a world where we are not worried about losing highly-skilled workers to states on the East and West coasts because we do not have enough jobs, but are wondering whether we can produce enough of those workers to meet the needs of Wisconsin businesses.
Such is the promise that the recent announcement by Gov. Jim Doyle holds. The governor’s initiative to invest nearly $750 million in public and private funds over the next ten years on cutting-edge research and the necessary infrastructure will go far toward keeping Wisconsin healthy – both physically and economically.
Funding for the proposed Wisconsin Institute for Discovery will allow UW-Madison researchers — and others around the state — to expand our understanding of areas such as genomics and proteomics, regenerative medicine, bioinformatics and nanotechnology. Basic research in these areas will lead to the development of tools for solving human health conditions and diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and various types of cancer. Funding for a new research facility at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee will enable us to learn more about infectious disease control and cardiovascular illnesses.
As if improving our health was not reason enough to support the governor’s initiative, consider the economic implications. To start, this plan calls for more than $300 million in construction over the next few years; that in itself will generate more than $460 million in economic impact on the state. Further, the U.S. Department of Commerce tells us that for every $1 million of research and development spending, 36 new jobs are created. Jobs that, on average, pay more than double the current per capita income in Wisconsin. R&D spending in Wisconsin already accounts for almost 32,000 jobs, and this initiative will allow that number to grow as the research facilities that are built will help Wisconsin researchers attract even more research funding from the federal government and other sources.
The technology developed by these researchers will be commercialized and companies will be formed based on those technologies. UW-Madison itself is responsible for the creation of more than 175 Wisconsin companies, most of which have been started in the last 10 years. These firms have created more than 7,000 jobs, and have aggregate gross revenues of more than $1 billion.
The Governor has provided a blueprint that not only moves forward important biomedical research, but a blueprint for job creation and economic expansion as well. The question we should be asking is not whether we can afford to do this, but rather whether we can afford not to.
–Charles Hoslet is managing director of the Office of Corporate Relations at UW-Madison.
December 10, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI