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UW–Madison’s economic impact to Wisconsin $15 billion annually, study says

April 14, 2015 By Greg Bump

Photo: Patrick Heaney

UW-Madison alum Patrick Heaney, founder of NCD Technologies, uses a microscope to quality check a tray of diamond-coated cutting tools at the company’s lab at UW’s Research Park. Spinoff businesses like NCD contribute to the university’s $15 billion economic impact on Wisconsin.


The University of Wisconsin–Madison continues to be one of the state of Wisconsin’s greatest economic engines, accounting for $15 billion in economic impact statewide according to a new report.

The report shows that UW–Madison, UW Hospital and Clinics and the university’s affiliated organizations and startup companies support 193,310 Wisconsin jobs and generate more than $847.5 million in state and local tax revenue. That’s up from 128,146 jobs and $614 million in tax revenue the last time a similar study was completed in 2011.

The report highlights the importance of a thriving UW–Madison to the state’s overall economic health, Chancellor Rebecca Blank says.

An information graphic highlighting measures from the report. These measures are available in the main story as well.

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“The University of Wisconsin has thrived because of the investment Wisconsin’s taxpayers and leaders have made over many generations,” Blank says. “In turn, we are now a major economic driver. This study shows that there is no doubt that a strong UW–Madison is essential to the growth of Wisconsin’s economy.”

Conducted by NorthStar Consulting, the study found that UW–Madison, along with UW Hospital and Clinics, has an annual economic impact of $12 billion, while supporting more than 158,350 Wisconsin jobs and generating $687.9 million in state tax revenue.

Entities affiliated with UW–Madison, including the Wisconsin Alumni Association, the Center for Advanced Studies in Business, the Fluno Center for Executive Education, the Morgridge Institute, the University of Wisconsin Foundation, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the Wisconsin Film Festival, University Research Park, and WiCell, contribute an additional $918 million to the state economy, while supporting more than 9,988 additional jobs, and generating nearly $46 million in additional tax revenue, the study found.

Read the report

UW–Madison is the fourth largest research institution in the nation, with awards in 2013 reaching more than $1.1 billion, and has consistently ranked among the top five universities overall for research funding secured from all sources —federal, private and state — for more than 20 years.

UW-Madison research has fostered the formation of at least 311 startup companies in Wisconsin. The startup companies support more than 24,972 jobs and contribute approximately $2.3 billion to the Wisconsin economy, bringing the total estimated economic impact to $15 billion.

“The University of Wisconsin has thrived because of the investment Wisconsin’s taxpayers and leaders have made over many generations.”

Rebecca Blank

Wisconsin taxpayers get a tremendous return on their investment in the state’s flagship university. The NorthStar study found that for every taxpayer dollar spent on UW–Madison, the university generates $24 for the state economy.

The overwhelming beneficiaries of the university’s economic activity are Wisconsin private businesses. Direct expenditures by UW–Madison alone create $4.5 billion dollars in business every year for private sector companies, NorthStar found.

David J. Ward, chief executive officer of NorthStar Consulting, will discuss the results in a teleconference TODAY at noon. Ward, a former professor of finance at the University of Wisconsin campuses in Green Bay and Oshkosh, is an active angel investor and chairman of the WiSys Technology Foundation. He also served as a senior vice president and chief academic officer for the UW System and is currently interim senior vice president for academic and student affairs.