Microsoft gives $1.25 million to UWM’s Connected Systems Institute

Will provide access to cloud computing, hardware devices

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Microsoft Corp. is giving $1.25 million to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Connected Systems Institute, the company’s president Brad Smith announced Monday.

UWM launched its Connected Systems Institute in 2017 with the help of a $1.7 million donation from Rockwell Automation. The institute, which is a collaboration among academia, industry and government partners, is aimed at helping manufacturers take advantage of Industrial Internet of Things technology. Other CSI donor partners have included WEC Group, A.O. Smith, ANSYS, Eaton and PTC.

The Microsoft grant will provide researchers and students with access to Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, Azure, along with hardware devices.

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Smith announced the grant as part of his keynote speech at the IoT Talent Consortium annual meeting, hosted by Rockwell Automation and UWM.

Smith, a Wisconsin native, highlighted Microsoft’s several connections to the state, most notably that the company’s chief executive officer Satya Nadella received his master’s degree from UWM.

“We are very bullish on what we see here at UWM and what we see in Milwaukee,” Smith said. “Because if you look at where the world is going and where technology and the economy are going, it is going to need more of what is being created here.”

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Milwaukee has a few of the key components in support of a strong tech ecosystem, including UWM, companies, such as Rockwell and Johnson Controls, and an emerging, healthy startup community, Smith said. He said the gift will serve as “rocket fuel” to that ecosystem.

Mark Mone, chancellor of UWM, said a key goal of the institute is providing a talent pool to area companies and leveraging research to benefit industry.

Microsoft’s gift expands its support of tech efforts in the state. It is partnering with the Green Bay Packers on the 46,000-square-foot TitletownTech development, which is currently being constructed west of Lambeau Field in the 45-acre Titletown district. The development will include an innovation lab, a venture studio and a venture fund, as well as “eatertainment” venue Topgolf Suites.

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Microsoft Philanthropies TEALS, a philanthropic venture that aims to add computer science to the curriculum at all high schools in the U.S., also launched in Wisconsin in 2017 and will soon be in more than 50 schools.

“In the tech world, you always talk about ecosystem,” Smith said. “You never succeed alone and the ecosystem often starts with great schools, great universities, great companies, great nonprofits. And the more you can engage in activities that connect everybody together, the better off you are.”

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