Looking back at 2023: memorable moments, milestones and impact

As 2023 nears its end, the Office of Business Engagement is reflecting on the efforts, accomplishments, relationships and celebrations that shaped a year of impact and growth. Here are some of our top highlights:

Bolstering biohealth

This fall, Wisconsin received designation as the nation’s Regional Tech Hub for biohealth, opening the door to millions of dollars in additional public and private investment in our state’s thriving biohealth industry. Leveraging Wisconsin’s healthcare assets and track record of commercializing medical research, the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub will facilitate manufacturing coordination and data sharing, expand lab space and computing capacity, advance genomic technology, and accelerate domestic biotech manufacturing. UW–Madison’s national leadership as a collaborative powerhouse in personalized medicine, bioscience and technology is key to this accomplishment and the state’s future success.

Relatedly, UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and GE HealthCare announced a 10-year strategic collaboration that builds on an iconic relationship spanning more than 40 years that has an established track record of combining innovative resources to transform patient care. The new research collaboration expands the existing scope of the partnership beyond medical imaging to new frontiers in digital technologies and disease-focused solutions, giving GE HealthCare access to UW–Madison’s world-class team of physicians, scientists, and researchers to test and expand GE HealthCare’s expertise in modernizing medical technology.

A large group of people in suits and business attire pose on a stairwell, smiling at the camera and hold up their hands in the "W" gesture.
Colleagues from UW–Madison and GE HealthCare give the W sign in celebration of the next ten years of strategic collaboration.

“[OBE] takes a ‘consultative, holistic’ approach to the process. We seek to understand possible issues, time horizon, the decision-making process, and resources required through the engagement… We’re equal partners, so we both have to have skin in the game to realize the longest-term impact.”
—John Garnetti, Managing Director in University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Leaders in sustainability

Teaming up with prominent businesses, the UW–Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Office of Business Engagement launched the Business Sustainability Leadership Forum (BSLF) on Friday, Nov. 17. The BSLF aims to gain important insight from key university-industry partnerships on the most pressing sustainability challenges facing private businesses today. The network initially launched with 14 regionally and nationally recognized businesses, as well as state officials, and environmental sustainability experts from across campus.

Another standout moment this year came from Nelson Institute and the UW–Madison Office of Sustainability, which announced the start of the Sustainability Research Hub—an initiative that will facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration toward sustainability “to make the University of Wisconsin–Madison a preeminent destination for sustainability research.”

A group of people stand in a semi-circle in a large room, posing for a photo and smiling into the camera. They hold up their hands to each make a "W" gesture.
The Business Sustainability Leadership Forum with UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin (center) at the inaugural full group meeting on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.

Celebrating 175 years of pushing beyond boundaries

Alongside the Wisconsin Alumni Association and campus leadership, OBE spent much of the summer connecting with industry partners statewide, linking businesses to UW–Madison talent and expertise and celebrating partnerships as the university launched the year-long celebration of its 175th anniversary. The UW 175 State Tour brought the university to Wausau, Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Green Bay – and it starts again in summer 2024!

David Kohler stands to the right of Chancellor Mnookin as she gestures toward Bucky Badger holding a red starbust designed chair. Bucky is bringing the chair to David Kohler.
Bucky Badger and Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin present a terrace chair with the iconic starburst design to David Kohler, chair and chief executive officer of Kohler Co., during a Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association 175th anniversary Community Celebration in Sheboygan. (Photo by Althea Dotzour / UW–Madison)

UW–Madison surpasses $1.5 billion in research expenditures

UW–Madison, for the first time, has topped $1.5 billion in research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. With this accomplishment, UW–Madison is ranked 8th among the nearly 900 public and private universities surveyed by NSF in the Higher Education Research and Development (HERD). The survey showed UW–Madison garnered a 28% increase in industry-sponsored research expenditures from $31.5 million in FY21 to over $40 million in FY22, part of a 10% overall increase in research expenditures over the previous fiscal year.

OBE grows connections in Japan

In September, OBE Managing Director John Garnetti attended the Midwest Ecosystem Builders Meet-Up in Tokyo, Japan at the invitation of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). There, he presented UW–Madison offerings to representatives from Japanese businesses, as well as government and research organizations. Subsequently, guests from JETRO visited UW–Madison campus for lab tours and introductions. Connections made through visits like this build relationships that can evolve into mutually beneficial research partnerships, strategic investments and more.

A classroom setting pictured from the back of the room. You can see attendees seated at tables in rows, with papers and notepads out on the table in front of them. At the front of the room facing the camera, John Garnetti is seated next to another person. To his left is a screen with a presentation slide feature U W Madison information.
John Garnetti presented multiple sessions to full rooms during the one-day Midwest Ecosystem Builders Meet-Up. UW–Madison was the only Wisconsin-based organization represented at the event. In addition to presenting at well-attended sessions during the Midwest Ecosystem Builders Meet-Up, Mr. Garnetti spent a day visiting Gunma Prefecture, which is located an hour north of Tokyo by train.

The year also brought numerous visits with industry partners both on and off campus, the addition of a new member to the OBE team, a successful inaugural Industry Engagement Welcome Breakfast with our campus colleagues, and so many wonderful connections and strengthened partnerships with industries throughout Wisconsin and beyond.

Thank you for a fulfilling year; we look forward to more great stories of connection and collaboration in 2024!

In case you missed it … additional highlights from 2023

The College of Letters & Science hosts the assistant director of NSF’s Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate. · Students, GE HealthCare team up to empower woman with MS. · Wisconsin business leaders join UW–Madison push for new engineering building. · New graduation records at UW–Madison. · Bakke Center a big hit. · Kikkoman Foods, Inc. marks 50th anniversary in the U.S. with $3M gift to CALS. · CDIS building to foster high-tech innovation. · Industry and campus leaders highlight partnership successes, areas for growth · A partnership between UW, Alliant explores agrivoltaics. · Fiskars seeks connection to UW-Madison talent pipeline. · How to turn plastic waste into a building block of Wisconsin’s economy.