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Milwaukee engineering school leaders say more federal money for innovation and research might help Wisconsin

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Chuck Quirmbach
/
WUWM
Left to right: Ian Robertson of UW-Madison, Carmel Ruffolo of Marquette University, Sheku Kamara of Milwaukee School of Engineering, and Andrew Graettinger of UW-Milwaukee listen to a question at Tuesday's Wisconsin Technology Council meeting in Wauwatosa.

Billions more in federal money could be flowing into engineering, research and development at universities in Wisconsin.

Federal money could come from pending legislation in Congress, with names like the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, and the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act, as well as the Biden administration infrastructure and Build Back Better proposals.

Top Wisconsin engineering school officials gathered in Wauwatosa Tuesday at a meeting of the Wisconsin Technology Council, to talk about the potential new funding, and maybe some cooperation on projects.

Andrew Graettinger is the associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at UW-Milwaukee. He said there could wind up being a technology hub in Wisconsin or the Midwest that could have broad benefits.

"It stimulates manufacturing, it stimulates technology growth, and all that opens the doors for more people to move in and get that education, and what [students] need to move up in society," Graettinger said. "Increasing opportunities, hiring more faculty, new buildings on campus — all of this makes it more attractive for our local students to stay here, get educated and work in our industry."

UW-Madison College of Engineering Dean Ian Robertson said research could include improve storage of energy from cleaner technologies like solar and wind power, and it could be for later use of that electricity by Wisconsin manufacturers. 

"Energy storage won't all be lithium-ion batteries. It won't be. There are other energy storage systems that we have to start exploring, get them around the state, and figure out how we can get Wisconsin companies ready to put in the new infrastructure," Robertson said.

Marquette University official Carmel Ruffolo wants more research emphasis on cyber-security. "We're just adding more and more technology. But are we adding more security?" Ruffolo said. "You know that when things go down now, it will disable us sometimes completely."

Ruffolo and others encourage early cooperation with the private sector, and more cooperation between universities to get any large sum of federal dollars that materializes into the state.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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