Foxconn has pledged $100 million to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a research institute in Racine County and for innovation research on the Madison campus.
While the company continues to build its electronics factory complex in Mount Pleasant, Foxconn says it wants a strong university partner to help develop a statewide environment for research and development in medical science, computers and materials science. Under agreements signed Monday, the UW-Madison will be that collaborator.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told a news conference that she's very excited. "We're committed to pursuing our shared agenda — to spark innovation and deepen research in critical areas, both here, and in Racine. To expand opportunities for students to learn critical skills at UW-Madison and to keep those students here in Wisconsin with work opportunities at Foxconn and other exciting hi-tech environments, " Blank said.
The bulk of the $100 million Foxconn is pledging to the partnership will go to a new interdisciplinary building for the UW-Madison College of Engineering, she says. The campus will also try to raise an additional $100 million for related research. Foxconn says some of the funds will go toward a Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology, or FIRST, which will provide funding on practical topics at its Mount Pleasant factory.
A Milwaukee business reporter who's been covering Foxconn says with so much money involved, Monday's announcement is significant. Arthur Thomas of Biz Times-Milwaukee says you can look at it a couple of ways: "Foxconn has kind of talked since it chose Wisconsin about wanting to have these partnerships — whether with companies or with universities all around the state. And so, one idea is that this a culmination of that."
He continued, "There's a more cynical view that they're doing this because the project isn't as popular as they would have thought and giving to the university maybe is a good way to curry some favor with the state."
Thomas says polls show the State of Wisconsin's $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn remains very unpopular in the Madison area and some other communities. But he says he isn't sure the $100 million investment in the UW will change many minds.
Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.