By Brian E. Clark
State Sen. Ted Kanavas said Thursday he’s confident his proposal to provide $2.5 million for high-tech research in southeastern Wisconsin will make it through the budget process.
The Brookfield Republican’s plan was approved Wednesday night on a 15-1 vote by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
"This will provide seed money that small businesses can use to apply for grants to leverage their intellectual property," said Kanavas, a software company executive.
He said the initiative would be run through the Biomedical Technology Alliance (BTA) and administered by UW-Milwaukee.
Kanavas said the alliance would link institutions such as UW-Milwaukee, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and UW-Parkside with local industry to increase biomedical research and development capacity in southeastern Wisconsin.
The finance committee vote follows by a little more than three weeks an announcement by Gov. Jim Doyle that UW-Milwaukee will be home to the new Wisconsin Institute for Biomedical and Health Technologies.
Backed by a $1 million seed grant from UWM, the institute will involve six schools and colleges and nearly 65 researchers from UWM and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
The money will be used primarily to attract a director and his or her research team to UWM. University officials have said they believe they can raise $15 million from private sector partners.
Kanavas called the two initiatives "synergistic" and said they will both help to develop southeastern Wisconsin as a biotech center.
"They will stand side-by-side and work with each other," he said. "UW-Milwaukee is making a big push for research, and I endorse that.
"We are trying to get southeast Wisconsin’s research and development culture to evolve and grow and create more jobs," he said.
He said big companies like GE Healthcare – which is building an $85 million, 475,000-square-foot headquarters in the Milwaukee County Research Park – will also play a major role in developing the region’s biotech and high-tech industry.
Kanavas said he hopes his initiative will lead to the creation of many high-paying jobs.
He said the benefits from developing biotech and high-tech companies are "limitless."
"Private industry and local academic institutions will be able to partner together and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and know-how in southeastern Wisconsin," he said.
Kanavas said the next step is for the budget to pass both houses of the Legislature and be signed by the governor.
"I’m fully confident that will happen in the next few months," he said.
"The sooner this initiative is up and running, the sooner it can begin funding the kind of biomedical research that will keep our best and brightest researchers in Wisconsin and create the kinds of spin-out companies we desperately need," he said.