This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.
A recent Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance study confirmed that Wisconsin lost more jobs than it gained over the past decade, but there’s cause for hope in economic sectors that are sources of young, high-growth companies. Here are 10 trends shaping the future of Wisconsin’s tech-based economy:
Campus entrepreneurism: A decade ago, it was difficult to find organized entrepreneurial education programs on Wisconsin campuses, the exceptions being the Weinert Center of Entrepreneurship at UW-Madison and the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship at Marquette University. Today, such programs are relatively widespread and popular. At the UW-Whitewater, for example, the “Launch Pad” is a student business incubator. At the UW-Madison, a dormitory floor has been set aside for self-identified entrepreneurs. This campus fad won’t soon fade.
Hacker spaces: These eclectic gathering places attract tinkerers, techies, hobbyists and curious students – but they’re also becoming shared working spaces for entrepreneurs. Two prominent examples are Milwaukee Makerspace and Sector67 in Madison, locations that offer opportunities for engineers, artists and people who design prototypes. It’s “shop class” on an adult scale for those who want to learn and have fun, as well as a platform for serious startups.
Regional research hubs: Research and development was once the province of a few major academic centers in Wisconsin, such as the UW-Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Judged by sheer R&D dollars raised and spent, that’s still true. However, the past dozen years have seen the rise of research clusters on other public and private campuses, including UW-Milwaukee. That showed in a recent competitive grant process that led to $23.5 million in state awards for a dozen UW System projects, most of which were outside Madison.