The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) designated Wisconsin as a Regional Tech Hub in late October, a move expected to spur innovation in the state’s biotech industry.
The Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program, known as the Tech Hub Program, designated 31 regions for greater technological investment based on their probability for “rapid technology-led economic growth.”
The application process
The Biden-Harris Administration selected 31 Regional Tech Hub Designations from at least 370 applicants, providing the possibility of funding toward technological advancement. Five to 10 of the chosen regions will receive up to $75 million in federal grants in the second round of the Tech Hub Program, which will be announced in 2024.
Adopted from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which provides approximately $280 billion to promote domestic semiconductor research, the program is designed to expand technological innovation beyond already booming regions.
To earn the bid, Wisconsin formed a consortium of 15 institutions, including the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), the University of Wisconsin System Administration, UW-Madison, GE HealthCare, BioForward Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Wisconsin then submitted a formal application, including an EDA-issued Request for Information (RFI) — information regarding the program design, agency, structures and selection process in terms of the chosen consortium.
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, helped establish the CHIPS and Science Act, allocating funds to form the Tech Hub Program.
“I was proud to have helped create the Tech Hub program and bring one to Wisconsin because it will spur innovation, help students get the skills they need to land good paying jobs in an emerging field, and create more opportunities for our businesses and workers,” Baldwin said. “The [Tech Hub designation] is welcome news, reinforcing our state’s long-standing tradition of innovation and manufacturing, bolstering our economy and creating good-paying jobs – all in the name of keeping people healthier for generations to come.”
UW-Madison also played a large role in the recent designation. As the eighth-ranked research institution in the country, UW-Madison’s biotech programs and research institutions were vital to the bid.
“[The BioHealth] industry that has grown here, largely out of University of Wisconsin research, is competitive with the best in the country,” Kurt J. Zimmerman, Senior Director of Biohealth Industry Partnerships at UW-Madison, told The Daily Cardinal. “This means that for the university and its students, there is a heightened attention to the research we are doing and the importance of that research, more industry partnerships, and more opportunities for students to be involved in that research and engage with those companies.”
What Wisconsin is planning to do
Wisconsin possesses the potential for technological and economic growth with its leading role — spearheaded by members of the consortium — in the biohealth and personalized medicine industry.
The consortium plans on using the money for innovation in healthcare and the development of personalized medicine — a field focusing on individualistic treatment through genomics, theranostics, and emphasis on proactive and preventative care to reduce medical costs.
The Patient Advisory Group, a newly created council designed to close the gap between patients and researchers, speeds up the process of collaboration and improves innovation.
Wisconsin’s designation will open the door for the state to receive additional millions of dollars in funding, bolstering opportunities for private investments and promoting stakeholders to boost biohealth operations and research. The consortium plans to use additional funding for shared resources and the growth of a developed and modern workforce.
“As this sector continues to grow, it will mean more high-paying jobs and economic growth for our state, as well as innovations that will transform the future of medical care for people in Wisconsin and around the world,” said Gov. Tony Evers in a press release.
The Tech Hub-led collaboration will also lead to a stronger and more equitable workforce as well as the formation of what Evers says will be a “good-jobs” economy. This emphasis on workforce quality will develop an employer-driven workforce within the biohealth sphere, allowing employers to hire a proficient and diverse workforce.
Funds will be geared toward workforce training, expanding employee housing and expanding transportation opportunities for those in traditionally marginalized and underserved communities. Furthermore, due to the expansion of technical training, collaboration and innovation, the consortium will create new jobs with benefits and upward mobility.
“When it comes to bringing together the best in research and development, cutting-edge manufacturing, highly skilled and educated workers, and a commitment to relentless improvement, no state is better prepared to lead the way,” Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC, said about Wisconsin in a press release. “This is a huge win in creating an economy for all, where everyone has the opportunity to live healthy, prosperous lives.”