WUWM: Innovation Reporting

It seems like every day there are breakthroughs in science, medicine and technology. But what do those advancements mean for you? WUWM’s Innovation Reporter Chuck Quirmbach will answer your questions, and make the difficult easier to grasp.

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Image from East Side and Downer Ave. Business Improvement Districts

It's unclear how many people will go shopping during Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and the rest of the post-Thanksgiving weekend — what with COVID-19 still surging in Wisconsin. But merchants are doing what they can to attract shoppers into stores or online.   

The pandemic has meant tough going for several types of businesses, including restaurants, entertainment venues, the hospitality industry and some retail establishments. Bill Smith is state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, which has nearly 10,000 members in Wisconsin.

Screen capture from Put Em' Down music video

New efforts to reduce gun violence are underway in the Milwaukee area. One new plan involves having city of Milwaukee firefighters responding to an emergency call hand out free gun safety locks to any city resident who wants one.

The gunlocks, which use a small cable and padlock through the firing mechanism, or barrel, to prevent a gun from firing, will also be available at Milwaukee fire stations.

Kati Kokal

Northwestern Mutual is pledging to invest $20 million in Black-founded startup companies in Milwaukee and across the nation.

The life insurance company says it will aim to provide money and access to young firms that focus on financial technology, improving customer experiences, digital health — including wearable devices, and data analytics. 

Craig Schedler, of Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, says venture capital (VC) efforts usually talk about the importance of proprietary deal flow.

Ann-Elise Henzl / WUWM

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) says financial woes related to lost business because of the COVID-19 pandemic are deepening for some business sectors. The organization says tens of thousands of firms are seeking assistance.

WEDC secretary and CEO Missy Hughes told the agency’s board Tuesday that after a bad economic hit during the spring, restaurants saw some improvements during the summer.

Chuck Quirmbach

COVID-19 has cut back or eliminated attendance at many arts and cultural venues. This includes properties designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright that are usually open to the public. But people who run those homes, museums and other sites say they're ready for reinvention, as Wright often reinvented himself.

Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

Financial investment in Wisconsin startup businesses remains relatively low. So, some company founders, investors and others have formed a coalition to advocate for policies that improve the state's innovation ecosystem.  

It's not just that Wisconsin trails financial centers like California, Massachusetts and New York in venture capital, or VC, funding. Matt Cordio, of Skills Pipeline and Startup Milwaukee, says the Badger State badly trails the Gopher State.

Chuck Quirmbach

Beginning Tuesday, UW-Milwaukee and other University of Wisconsin System campuses are offering to the public and university employees a free rapid COVID-19 test. But medical experts warn the exam may need a follow-up.

POOL / ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES

On the presidential campaign trail this summer and fall, it hasn’t all been about COVID-19 or the leadership skills of the two major party candidates, Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden.

For example, both candidates have occasionally talked about scientific and technical changes for the nation. One technology advocate says the winner of Tuesday's contest will have a long list of issues to address.

Chuck Quirmbach

A Mequon company which makes a robotic cart that has a British accent has won this year's Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest, which is run by the state business group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. 

Another finalist was a mother and daughter who make adaptive clothing for kids with health problems.

The Mequon firm is MuL Technologies. In a back warehouse, company officials demonstrated the MARC 2470, a four-wheeled black plastic cart that can be quickly programmed to tell it where to move.

Chuck Quirmbach

There have been more than 140 homicides in Milwaukee this year, about double the number last year at this time. It's possible that in 2020, the city will set a new record for killings, most of which involve fatal shootings.

Creators of a new online tool at the Medical College of Wisconsin hope to eventually reduce the violence.

Courtesy of UW-Madison

The U.S. Army is giving UW-Madison $11.4 million to help develop a new type of airplane engine that could someday power everything from drones to commercial air taxis.

Hybrid-electric engines already exist in some cars. But scientists say despite aircraft engines being much different, hybrids hold promise in the skies as well.

UW-Madison mechanical engineering professor David Rothamer is principal investigator for the project. He says there are multiple fuels that could work in a modified airplane engine.

Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak in Janesville Monday. His campaign appearance comes a few days after a Trump administration appointee, Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Mark Menezes, traveled to the Janesville-Beloit area. Menezes’ visit highlighted the potential of more federal funding for two companies involving in making radioisotopes used in diagnosing medical problems. 

Петр Смагин

Many medical centers use a radiation-releasing element called a radioisotope to help diagnose and treat health problems. Friday, a high-ranking member of the U.S. Department of Energy will visit two southern Wisconsin companies involved in making the radioactive isotopes.  The Trump administration official is expected to highlight support of a program to reduce dependence on foreign imports. 

Chuck Quirmbach

The telecommunications industry continues to promise faster wireless service with a technology known as 5G. Cables and antenna towers related to 5G are now being installed in neighborhoods in part of the Milwaukee area. But a Milwaukee alderperson says she's getting  many complaints about how the work is being done — complaints that an analyst says should worry a lot of communities.

One place the cable is going in, is along S. Delaware Avenue in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood. 

Courtesy of Healthy Minds Innovations

Local medical experts say they're worried about the mental health of people in the Milwaukee area after dealing with months of COVID-19 and economic challenges related to the pandemic.  

Counselors are recommending various ways to positively cope with additional stress. Some Wisconsin researchers have even developed a free app, designed to help through meditation.

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