UW-Whitewater Innovation Center celebrates first anniversary
If you go
What: Whitewater Innovation Center anniversary ceremony
When: 9 a.m. today
Where: 1221 Innovation Drive, Whitewater.
Details: Featured speakers include Richard Telfer, UW-Whitewater chancellor; Robert Young, executive director of the Whitewater University Technology Park; and Jonathan Barry, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development deputy secretary.
WHITEWATER It might not seem like a good match—Gen. George "Blood and Guts" Patton and a state-of-the-art facility in Whitewater created to foster business ideas and innovation.
But Robert Young, executive director of the Whitewater University Technology Park, believes innovation and the World War II general fit nicely.
He points to a Patton quotation on a wall in the technology park's cornerstone facility, the Innovation Center. It reads:
"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody is not thinking."
That's what the Innovation Center is all about, Young said.
"It's my favorite quote, here, because it's appropriate to what we do," Young said.
Several quotations from prominent people are displayed in the center, but Patton stands out, he said.
"His observation not only applies to military strategy," Young said. "Patton's thinking was universal and certainly applicable to the creative thinking and innovation we foster here at the Innovation Center."
The technology park and the Innovation Center today celebrate their first anniversary. The successes realized are the envy of other efforts much older, Young said.
"The major accomplishment was raising $11.5 million to make this community-university project possible," Young said. "On top of that, we have been able to attract cutting-edge tenants and programs that have taken ideas of our students and turned those ideas into successful businesses."
One example of the center's accomplishments is Michael Fitzpatrick, a business management senior at UW-Whitewater.
Fitzpatrick took his idea of a T-shirt business he calls Thirsty Clothing to the center's Launchpad program in 2010. He submitted his business plan to the center and worked the plan into reality. He now presides over a company with global sales of $150,000 a year.
"My overall goal is to create the largest T-shirt company in the United States," Fitzpatrick said. "The startup assistance I received from Launchpad at the Innovation Center has allowed me to begin to achieve that goal."
The center's Launchpad program provides funding and incubator space to students with entrepreneurial promise.
UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer sees the technology park and Innovation Center as extensions of traditional campus learning.
"The Innovation Center provides an opportunity for our students to apply what they learn in our classrooms to real world situations," Telfer said. "Michael is a great example of that."
The students aren't the only winners when ideas turn into sales.
"The university wins in many ways," Telfer said. "This is a great recruitment tool. Potential faculty members look at this as a major opportunity to work in and outside the classroom walls.
"We are able to attract the best faculty, staff and students with this program, and that's important at a time when budgets are strained," Telfer said.
The community component of the program also is important, Telfer said.
"It's our goal to work with the city of Whitewater to find ways to create jobs and keep those jobs here in our area," Telfer said. "This is an investment in the local economy in terms of job creation and economic development."
INNOVATION CENTER TENANTS
Tenants of the Innovation Center, the centerpiece of the Whitewater University Technology Park, include:
Cooperative Educational Service Agency 2
Cooperative Educational Service Agency 2 provides resources to area school districts. Program offerings range from driver education and spelling bees to school nutrition and parent education. It occupies 9,170 square feet.
The Jefferson-Eastern Dane Interactive
The Jefferson-Eastern Dane Interactive distance education network is open to all students that face limitations with the traditional learning environment. The JEDI virtual school provides all of the educational opportunities of a traditional school in a format that accommodates individual students. It occupies 780 square feet.
Blackthorne Capital Management
Blackthorne Capital Management has a partnership with UW-Whitewater to generate new financial thinking and research. It has 25 employees, more than half of which are UW-Whitewater professors, graduates or interns. It occupies 2,300 square feet.
The iHUB is a collaborative space and a series of programs designed to accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial companies. The iHub provides faculty and staff who act as "i-Mentors," providing direction to would-be entrepreneurs and as "i-Fellows," who apply for funds to help launch ideas within the confines of the Innovation Center. It occupies 1,665 square feet.
Renwig Custom involves robotic guitar amplifiers. A foot switch allows a musician to activate robotic actuators that change the settings on the amplifier. It occupies 1,100 square feet.
Foundry Solutions accelerates the production of ceramic shells and reduces the time for fabrication of parts. The ceramic shells are used to manufacture metal parts used in industries ranging from auto manufacturing to aerospace. It occupies 550 square feet.