Monday, April 30, 2012

R&D on the rise at Milwaukee-area universities

A recent Public Policy Forum report looked at the impacts university research can have on local economic development and presented several models that could help to expand technology transfer in southeast Wisconsin. We found that while coordinated infrastructure is needed to convert research into new businesses and jobs in the local economy, the impact on local economic development is also related to the level of investment in research.

New data from the National Science Foundation on total university research and development spending reveals positive trends for Milwaukee. Four Milwaukee-area universities combined to invest $281 million in research and development in 2010, up from just over $100 million in 2000. In addition, while the collective research investments at Milwaukee institutions are still far lower than the over $1 billion spent by UW-Madison, which ranks third in the nation in research spending, Milwaukee-area universities collectively increased research spending at a significantly faster rate than UW-Madison over that time period.

The table below shows the growth in R&D expenditures at Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago universities over the past 20 years, as well as the national rank for each institution on that measure in both 2000 and 2010. The Medical College of Wisconsin has more than doubled its R&D expenditures since 2000 and now is poised to become one of the top 100 research institutions in the U.S. UWM has made large gains as well, more than tripling its R&D expenditures since 2000.

Source: National Science Foundation – National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
The following table shows the total R&D spending at Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago universities since 1990. The collective investments of Milwaukee’s universities have grown from 18% of that of UW-Madison in 2000 to 27% in 2010. As a group, Milwaukee’s universities have expanded research spending at a faster rate than Chicago’s universities as well.

It will be interesting to track these investments over the next 10 years, especially in light of UWM’s major research and development push, which includes expanding the Great Lakes Water Institute, developing the new Innovation Park in Wauwatosa, participating in the water research and business accelerator at Reed Street Yards, and planning a new interdisciplinary research center for UWM’s main campus.

Due to the highly collaborative nature of many research efforts, a rising profile for Milwaukee universities could have compounding affects, as Milwaukee researchers become more attractive partners for research efforts taking place at UW-Madison, at universities in Chicago, and beyond.

Of course, new research facilities and more research dollars will not automatically provide substantial benefits to the local economy. As we found in our report, Technology Transfer in Southeast Wisconsin, the ability of entrepreneurs to develop new businesses from university research, and the channels by which to do so, are the other crucial elements.


Anonymous said...

Joe typed: "Milwaukee-area universities collectively increased research spending at a significantly faster rate than UW-Madison over that time period [2000-2010]."

This statement shows how you can make statistics lie. From what Joe says, you would think that the four Milwaukee-area universities are catching up to the Madison campus.

Not true -- they are falling farther behind.

Collectively, the four Milwaukee-area universities increased research spending by roughly $181 million between 2000 and 2010, while research spending on the Madison campus increased by roughly $475 million over the same period.

The percentage increase may be larger because it is measured off a much, much smaller base.

On, Wisconsin!

Joe Peterangelo said...

Since there is more than one way to measure progress, both of us are correct. In sheer dollars invested, UW-Madison did indeed have the highest growth between 2000 and 2010, rising by nearly $475 million.

In my original post, "significantly faster rate" refers to two ways of measuring progress: growth as a percentage of each university’s previous investments and growth as a percentage of Milwaukee’s collective research spending in relation to that of UW-Madison. By the first measure, UWM’s research spending grew by 256% between 2000 and 2010 while the Medical College of Wisconsin’s spending increased by 172% and UW-Madison’s by 86%. On the second measure, Milwaukee’s collective research spending grew in relation to UW-Madison's spending, from 18% in 2000 to 27% in 2010. In addition, the Medical College of Wisconsin and UWM both have risen in the national rankings on university research spending. These measures contradict the argument that Milwaukee’s universities are “falling further behind” and indeed point to significant progress.