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Open House showcases university-business collaboration

August 23, 2013

UW-Madison schools and colleges showcased their relationships with corporate partners at the university’s second annual Corporate Open House Thursday at Union South.

Photo: Tom Gentile

Tom Gentile, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Systems delivers the keynote at the OCR Corporate Open House. (Photo by Aaron Zitzelsberger.)

More than 140 representatives from businesses throughout the Midwest attended the daylong event sponsored by the Office of Corporate Relations and the University of Wisconsin Foundation. OCR Managing Director Charles Hoslet says attendance doubled from last year.

“People really found value in spending the day with us, learning more about what the university has to offer in potential partnerships,” Hoslet says. “We think it’s a great opportunity for people to see the types of expertise and resources that UW–Madison can bring to businesses.”

Aaron Zitzelsberger, UW Foundation Corporate and Foundation Relations development director, says the open house shows UW–Madison is open to industry and receptive to partnerships.

“We bring companies here to let them learn about who we are and what we do, but we’re always learning more about who they are and what they do,” Zitzelsberger says.

The Corporate Open House featured two panels, one consisting of UW researchers and the other consisting of college representatives and their corporate partners: Covance, BloodCenter of Wisconsin and American Family Insurance.

Tom Gentile, president and CEO of General Electric Healthcare Systems, presented the keynote address about the company’s 30-plus year collaboration with the university that has led to more than 100 patents. Gentile also noted a more than $30 million investment in a state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging research facility located on campus.

“The University of Wisconsin is truly a special relationship,” Gentile told the audience. “It isn’t like this anywhere else.”

In between panels, representatives from university schools and colleges visited with representatives of business and industry. Stephen Harsey, School of Medicine and Pubic assistant dean and Office of Industry Relations director, says while a barrier sometimes seems to exist between academia and industry, it doesn’t need to.

“We seek fundamental understanding on our research side. Companies seek commercialized products. But in the end, there is a connection,” Harsey says. “We are ready to take these laboratory discoveries and move them to the marketplace.”

Kevin Royalty, Siemens Medical Solutions research manager, attended the open house since Siemens has ongoing collaborations with the university. He says he wanted to see what other research is occurring on campus, meet other companies and find ways to further their own research.

He noted that the presentations provided a perspective on where major companies are finding the benefits of working with the university and the value in their collaborations, as well as networking opportunities.

“For me, the eye-opener is the scope of the collaborations going on,” Royalty says. “It’s a huge university and you know there’s probably a lot of research going on, but it’s events like these where you have everybody in the same room, and they’re sharing all the things they’ve done, that you get a real appreciation for how big it is.”

–Sean Kirkby