UW Oshkosh: $500,000 earmarked for manufacturing innovation program

E. Alan Hartman, (920) 424-1444
Chancellor Richard H. Wells, (920) 424-0200

OSHKOSH – The U.S. House of Representatives has recommended $500,000 for a three-year Competitive Manufacturing Through Innovation Management program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

“This program will provide consulting services and targeted educational resources to small manufacturers to enhance their ability to innovate,” said U.S. Rep. Thomas Petri, who requested funding for the project. “The goal is to spread manufacturing process advancements throughout our region to help keep our companies growing and our people employed and prosperous.”

The U.S. Senate is expected to approve the legislation, Petri said. It also needs President Bush’s signature.

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard H. Wells, who thanked Petri for his strong support, said the program will help stop the flight of higher-paying manufacturing jobs from Wisconsin and other states by stimulating innovation and new products.

“This is critical to the economic development of Northeast Wisconsin,” Wells said. “Manufacturing jobs have been leaving our region, state and nation, and we have to use the core of American business­innovation­to create a ‘new’ economy.”

Funding for the program also will come from UW Extension and UW-Oshkosh. UW-Stout will provide assistance through its manufacturing engineering expertise.

College of Business Dean E. Alan Hartman said Northeast Wisconsin’s strong manufacturing base has declined in recent years­from more than 24 percent to less than
18 percent of the economy­and shed 30,000 jobs.

“What is needed for us to regain economic strength is to create innovative new products requiring high, value-added processes,” Hartman said. “This program will provide consulting and education to small manufacturers so they can innovate, and it will develop networks of manufacturers across product lines to share research results.”

The program will teach manufacturers and other organizations how to create systems that encourage innovation. It also will provide a database of patents not commercialized so that area companies will be able to determine if there are commercialization opportunities within their industries.

The program will be developed with assistance from the Venture Center, a joint effort involving Fox Valley Technical College and UW-Oshkosh to foster entrepreneurship, and the UW-Oshkosh Center for Community Partnerships.

Specifics include:
· Three innovation workshops a year for manufacturers.
· A competitive leadership development program for manufacturing that covers areas such as leading change, strategic thinking, labor management, building and leading high-performance teams, innovation, creativity techniques and project management. Up to 50 participants a year will be able to earn a certificate through the program.
· An eight-month Innovation Academy program, where leaders from a company will learn how to create a highly innovative company. Five companies a year can complete the academy and improve their culture for innovation.
· A website will allow Northeast Wisconsin manufacturers to share best practices, innovation strategies and market products manufactured in the region.
· The patent database, developed through contacts with Northeast Wisconsin companies, will include those not being developed for commercial purposes. A liaison with the UW Research Foundation also will provide information about patents they hold that are not being commercialized.