New wave: Wisconsin embraces technology innovation

    In today’s information world, innovation is king. Wisconsin research institutions and universities are well-positioned to make the state an informatics leader on many fronts, including health care, application development, and even cyber security.

    “Wisconsin has a solid foundation. The more diverse your research base, the more connections you have, the more opportunity there is,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “Wisconsin’s computer science, computations and informatics industries have emerged because other industries in the state have continued to evolve.”

    Health care is a significant industry here, and has evolved substantially over time through the use of information technology.

    Judith Faulkner, a UW-Madison alum, founded Epic Systems, a privately held healthcare informatics company, in 1979. Headquartered in Verona, the company offers an integrated suite of healthcare software related to patient care, registration, scheduling and more. The company employs more than 6,000 people worldwide.

    “Epic is certainly a Wisconsin startup success story,” Still said. “It stemmed from research and necessity.”
    The Marshfield Clinic Health System created one of the first electronic medical records systems in the country. It has records of its patients dating back to 1962, said Oliver Dagnan, Chief Technology Officer.

    “As the medical field transitions to more real-time patient care and accountable care models, having those electronic records that span across generations will be extremely important to how patient care is rendered,” he said.

    Marshfield Clinic commercialized its system as Cattails MD, which provides the system as an integrated software solution for other health care providers.

    According to Dagnan, the Clinic is in the process of rewriting its system again to account for a more real-time, event-based computing model with mobile factors and capabilities.

    “We’re always innovating, and that’s the direction that patient care is moving,” Dagnan said. “We’re building in more patient-centered features including image sharing, discussion capabilities and projection features for group collaboration opportunities.”

    The shift towards mobile technology is creating a burgeoning application development industry as well. Research facilities, companies and universities across the state are putting developers to work, and Madison was voted by Forbes in 2010 to be the 7th most innovative city in the country. Milwaukee also enjoys a robust tech startup scene, with the support of incubators like BizStarts Milwaukee, Spreenkler, Bucketworks and others.

    A recent report, The Geography of the App Economy, published by CTIA-The Wireless Association, in partnership with the Application Developers Alliance, ranked Wisconsin 23rd in the country for app development with approximately 5,300 app economy jobs and an annual economic impact of $222 million.

    The rankings were based on “app intensity,” which the study defined as the percentage of jobs in the app economy in relation to overall employment numbers.

    The report identified  the beginning of an app cluster in Madison, and called out Madison-based PerBlue, a multi-player mobile game developer created by two UW-Madison students. PerBlue had 43 employees in Madison as of June 2012 and hopes to expand to 65 workers over the next year. 

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