This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.
While economists don’t often agree on much, it’s hard to find much dissent over the notion that major research universities contribute to the prosperity of cities, regions and states around them.
Studies by the Federal Reserve Bank and others have cited the power of academic research and development in the economy, from direct spending tied to such research to the transfer of knowledge to companies of all sizes to the “human capital” that comes with creation of a highly skilled workforce.
The UW-Madison is one of the nation’s leading research universities by several measures – dollars invested, patents produced and ideas licensed or otherwise transferred to the market – but it was Wisconsin’s only academic R&D center for more than 100 years. However, the past decade or so has brought change.
Other states claim multiple R&D centers that contribute to their economies, and it’s not just the mega-states such as California, New York and Texas. The success of the Research Triangle in North Carolina is tied to the combined horsepower of Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State universities, to cite one familiar example.
Closer to home, Illinois has R&D hubs at the University of Illinois, Northwestern and the University of Chicago; Indiana is home to Indiana University and Purdue; Michigan has Michigan and Michigan State; Pennsylvania boasts Penn State and Pittsburgh; Iowa has the University of Iowa and Iowa State; and Minnesota has the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, which functions like an academic institution in some ways.
The importance of a second research hub for Wisconsin was part of a message delivered last week in Milwaukee by UW-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank, who spoke to a meeting of the Wisconsin Innovation Network.