WisBusiness: University Research Park gets high marks

By Brooke Knudson

After being dubbed in recent months as a low-key hotspot for biotechnology development by The Scientist and the nation’s top research university by Washington Monthly, Madison has gained even more recognition as an emerging powerhouse in the life sciences.

In a recent issue of Research Park Forum, a publication of the Association of University Research Parks, the University Research Park was touted as one that successfully fuels the economy by

incubating those businesses in the biosciences.

Research Park Director Mark Bugher said the ties between tenants and the university are strong and that “the park is perceived as a high-quality campus and regional hub for creation of science and technology companies.”

Bugher also said he was pleased with the recognition from Research Park Forum.

“It’s a high honor for international organizations to view this place as a unique asset where all the assets for successful technology transfer have come together,” he said.

He said the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the UW Office of Corporate Relations, the research park and the university’s many researchers all have contributed to the park’s progress and reputation.

Bugher said he recently spoke to provosts at an American Association of Universities gathering in Florida.

“I talked to leaders of the top research universities in the country about our efforts here,” he said. “And it is clear from their reaction that we really should be proud of what we have here in Wisconsin.

“It is almost without equal,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think people that live here always appreciate that. Particularly policy makers.”

Since its conception, the idea of a local and regional market for new companies–a concept University Research Park refers to as a ‘homegrown philosophy’–is part of what makes the park a success today.

Established in 1984 by the UW Board of Regents, the park now boasts a booming community of some 34 buildings, 107 tenants and close to 5,000 employees. Located at the axis of the research park is the MG&E Innovation Center, which acts as a technology incubator to some 34 start-up companies, most of which are affiliated with the university. The center encourages collaboration with UW-Madison, helps companies with product development and supports companies seeking capital investment.

Successful companies in the biosciences include Third Wave Technologies, Deltanoid Pharmaceuticals, and ProCertus BioPharm. Each tenant has access to UW libraries, conference rooms, seminars, workshops and high-speed Internet.

The Research Park Forum write-up points out that financially, the facility receives no municipal or state funding to fuel the operation. Instead, it pays property taxes to the city of Madison and borrows funds from area banks for building projects — including plans to expand the park in the next few years.

Aside from being self-sufficient, the park returns profits to the university’s research programs which, in turn, stimulates Wisconsin’s economic growth.

The expansion project will extend the facility across 524 acres—an increase that nearly doubles the size of the park, making it one of the largest research parks in the country. In addition, the MG&E Innovation Center will grow to aid in commercializing many UW-Madison research findings.

Bugher said the expansion could add 200 companies and 10,000 more jobs to the park.

For more information on URP and its tenants, visit www.universityresearchpark.org or call 608-441-8000.