Skip to main content

New institute to be catalyst for redefining UW engineering research enterprise

June 16, 2014 By Renee Meiller

Photo: aerial view of engineering campus

The UW–Madison College of Engineering campus as seen from a helicopter in October, 2013. The new Grainger Institute for Engineering, to be housed in the college, will emphasize cross-disciplinary research.


A new trans-disciplinary research institute in the University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Engineering is being created to drive technological advances that will enhance the success of U.S. industries and spur economic growth in the nation.

Funded with a $25 million commitment from The Grainger Foundation, the Grainger Institute for Engineering is intended to foster new discoveries and build the university’s global reputation as a leader in helping solve critical technological challenges.

“The institute will accelerate the renaissance of the U.S. manufacturing industry and enhance the nation’s economy.”

Rebecca Blank

“The positive and transformative effects of this investment within the College of Engineering will resonate throughout the state and our nation far into the future,” says UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “Through innovation in advanced manufacturing technologies and education of the workforce, the institute will accelerate the renaissance of the U.S. manufacturing industry and enhance the nation’s economy.”

The institute will break down the silos of traditional fields of research in favor of a model that cuts across disciplines. “Housed within the College of Engineering, the Grainger Institute for Engineering will act as a catalyst for transformative, collaborative approaches to research and education throughout the university,” says UW–Madison Provost Paul DeLuca. “It will enable the university to educate engineers and scientists for the modern world.”

The Grainger Foundation’s commitment will create an endowment for professorships, faculty scholar awards, and postdoctoral fellowships, with additional support from UW–Madison, the UW–Madison Vilas Trust, and the college. The commitment will enable the College of Engineering to attract clusters of top faculty to define new research directions through the institute. In total, the funding will enable the college to hire 25 new faculty.

“With most of these faculty holding appointments in two departments in the college, they will be positioned to accelerate the move toward more trans-disciplinary education,” says College of Engineering Dean Ian Robertson. “Adapting such an approach to both education and research is essential to our future.”

Photo: Ian Robertson

Ian Robertson

Researchers in the institute initially will focus on areas related to materials and manufacturing. “The Grainger Institute for Engineering will advance our global expertise in advanced manufacturing, materials discovery and materials sustainability,” says Robertson. “These areas transcend disciplines across the College of Engineering and the UW–Madison campus and bring together disparate groups to solve common problems. Innovations in these areas will impact areas ranging from energy and consumer goods to health care solutions and will allow U.S. companies to bring new products to market more quickly and economically.”

The institute will act as an incubator, allowing the College of Engineering to continuously launch and nurture new research concepts, and ultimately to “graduate” research centers that become mature and self-sustaining. “The unique, nimble structure of the institute will allow the college to focus on emerging areas and will serve as the engine that drives future engineering research innovation at UW–Madison,” says Robertson.

About The Grainger Foundation

The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation, located in Lake Forest, Illinois, was established in 1949 by William Wallace Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger, Inc., North America’s leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair, and operating products, with operations in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Since its founding, the foundation has provided substantive support to a broad range of organizations including museums and educational, medical, and human services institutions. Today, the foundation is guided by the leadership of 1950 UW–Madison BSEE graduate David W. Grainger, president and director of the foundation since 1979.

About the University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Engineering

The UW–Madison College of Engineering is among the most innovative and consistently highly ranked U.S. colleges of engineering. Home to more than 40 research centers and more than 15 research consortia, the college is internationally renowned for leading-edge research and widely recognized for its ability to transfer technological advances into real-world applications through patents, licenses, spin-off and start-up companies, and industry partnerships. Through world-class undergraduate, graduate- and professional-level educational programs, the college enables students to develop as thoughtful, ethical leaders and to acquire the technical expertise they need to tackle complex global engineering challenges.