WisBusiness: WiSys Working To Promote Tech Transfer From UW System Campuses

By Brian E. Clark


With $750 million in annual research funding, UW-Madison is the 800-pound gorilla in the state when it comes to producing inventions and patents.

But a recently completed catalog shows that faculty and staff in the 12-campus system outside of Madison are clever, too.

The report – coordinated by Maliyakal John of the WiSys Technology Foundation – came up with 50 innovations that UW officials hope will one day translate into companies and jobs.

“That’s our goal, that’s what we’re striving for,” said John.

WiSys is a non-profit tech transfer organization dedicated to the promotion of research and learning at UW campuses through commercialization of discoveries.

Formed in 2001, WiSys is also an affiliate of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which manages patents for UW-Madison. John worked with WARF for four years before transferring to WiSys.

John said the 50 inventions in the WiSys catalog range from firing ceramics in a microwave to devices for analyzing nerve functions to therapeutic agents for treatment of memory deficits.

“One of the things we would like to do with this is to get entrepreneurs outside of Madison interested in starting businesses using this information coming from our campuses,” he said.

“We’d be happy to have them take a license or work with us to create a company,” he said.

Andy Cohen, a spokesman for WARF, said while UW-Madison gets 10 times the research funding of all the other campuses combined, the WiSys catalog “shows the incredible creativeness and inventive capacity of the entire UW System.”

John said the innovations came from all of the campuses outside of Madison.

“They were spread across the state, not just from UW-Milwaukee, though some certainly came from there,” he said.

In the past, UW-La Crosse researchers have received a patent for anti-infection derivatives from a Wisconsin plant used by Native Americans. UW-Platteville faculty have done leading work on hydrogen fuel cells and James Cook, a UW-Madison professor, created an anti-anxiety drug now licensed to Bristol-Myers Squibb.

To stimulate more research and inventions, John said WARF recently gave a grant of $1 million to WiSys to create the WiSys Technology Advancement Grant (WiTAG).

John said the WiTAG program will allow researchers to collect early, quality data to support federal grant applications by hiring post-doctoral fellows and research assistants, and provide other support for faculty to conduct research and development.

The grant is expected to provide a competitive advantage to UW System faculty when they compete for federal state and private funding for long-term research that will drive economic development around the state, he said.

“UW campuses are well known as centers of teaching and innovation,” said UW System President Kevin Reilly. “Now the challenge is to enhance their capacity for the next generation of academic research and development.

“WySys and WiTAG are important parts of that transition,” he added.

The objectives of the grants include developing high-value intellectual property and marketable products or processes, and collecting validation data to support funding.

The grants will be for up to three years and research must be targeted for commercialization. John said interdisciplinary projects, joint applications from UW System campuses and collaborations with industry are encouraged.

Carl Gulbrandsen, WARF managing director, said “we want to harness the incredible creatively of UW researchers across the state and use it to improve quality of life and strengthen Wisconsin’s economy.”

John said he hopes the $1 million grant will be seed money for other donations.

“I’d like to see it grow into a bigger pot,” he said. “We are working with private industries, state government and the UW System to try to make that happen.”

— For more information on the WiSys catalog and the WiTAG program, contact Maliyakal John at (608) 265-2135 or [email protected]. To see the catalog, go to the WiSys Web site at www.wisys.org/aboutus.