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At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee there has been a steady build in what we call the “Innovation Engine”. About four or five years ago, senior leadership at UWM set a plan in motion to ignite this innovation engine and since then it has been steadily burning while gaining momentum and attracting the masses. This movement began when the past Chancellor of UWM, Dr. Michael Lovell, then the Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS), who began forging industry partnerships with such local companies as Ansys, General Electric Healthcare, Rockwell Automation, and Johnson Controls. As a result of these partnerships, new research opportunities began to flourish and the engineering faculty as a whole acted as first followers as they began collaborating in redesigned laboratories, state-of-the-art technical facilities, and through revolutionary classroom instruction. This garnered much interest and support throughout the school and the effects reverberate through the senior leadership and the then Dean of CEAS, later became the Chancellor of the university. Since Chancellor Lovell has left, a new Chancellor has been named, Dr. Mark Mone. Dr. Mone also serves as the former Chancellor's Designee for Strategic Planning and Campus Climate.  In his cabinet-level role as chancellor’s designee, Dr. Mone works with the campus’ senior leadership, governance groups, and all stakeholders to develop UWM’s 2020 strategic plan, and develop and implement campus-level programs to improve the organizational climate.

To further grow the innovation engine, individual faculty sprouted up throughout various departments, first through the business school, Dr. Kanti Prasad, then the Peck School of the Art with Dr. Kim Beckman, and the CEAS/ UWM Research Foundation through Brian Thompson. Dr. Prasad created through outside investments the Sheldon B Lubar, New Venture Business Plan Competition, where teams of students could develop business plans in competition to winning initial seed funds to start their companies. Dr. Beckman, developed an artistic showcase through multiple artistry-centric courses where students can develop ideas to showcase in a public “maker space” that the University owns. Lastly, Thompson organized, taught, and runs the Innovation and Commercialization class. It was at this time, the Innovation Engine began to appeal to a new market...students.


As participation in these innovative activities sky-rocketed, the need for more activities came apparent. The next was the Scheinfeld Entrepreneur Fund, which was another business plan competition out of the school of business. Additionally, momentum in the engineering and art schools began to rise and Dr. Ilya Avdeev and Dr. Nathaniel Stern professors from each school respectively, created a course, Product Realization, where students focus less on the business plans and more on developing their business prototypes by working with real industry partners. By this time, it has been about 2 or 3 years, and in 2012, the various groups on campus along with the University senior leadership initiated a movement to ensure success. They all came together under the faculty support of Brian Thompson, Ilya Avdeev, Nathaniel Stern, and Michael Hostad to create the campus wide inclusive Student Startup Challenge. This is the universities premiere student accelerator that focuses on developing student businesses while utilizing the lean startup methodologies and focuses on developing products and talking with customers. This competition not only solidified the innovation engine on campus but it also poured more gas on a pervading flame by allowing the entire university, students, and faculty alike to take some sort of ownership or affiliation with the Student Startup Challenge through candidates that work to develop prototypes, quick pitches, and develop business models from research or individuals’ ideas from all departments of the university. Today, the student startup challenge has grown from funding 3 teams to 8 teams and still more in this following year.

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There are new classes each semester catering towards entrepreneurship and student participation is at an all time high with three widely active student organizations Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Organization (CEO) and American Marketing Association (AMA). Additionally, there are many smaller more niche student organizations that are entrepreneurially focused such as the video game design organization or Society of American Engineers (SAE). The UWM Research Foundation has expanded its entrepreneurial initiatives by hiring their first ever Entrepreneur-in-Residence and UWM has been named as a Pathway School with three Innovation Fellow candidates. The innovation engine does not stop here, UWM is determined to ensure ever lasting change by committing to collaboration and innovation by opening a brand new innovation campus about 15 miles west of the main campus that focuses on developing a world-class, public-private research park that spurs strong and enduring partnerships between academia and industry leading to new products, spin off businesses, workforce development and jobs in the fields of healthcare informatics, biomedical engineering, and advanced manufacturing & energy. I am proud to work with both Alex and Rob, as University Innovation Fellows Candidates to continue this event and progress it into the future with new and novel student initiatives

University Innovation Fellow Candidates:

Fall 2018 - Kaitlyn Jankowski, Justin Davis, Mitchell Merz, Ilian Iliev

Spring 2018 - Madeline Horinek

Fall 2015 - Aaron Davis, Tahereh Hosseini, Rustin Bergren, Cori Engdahl

Spring 2015 - Amin Mojtahedi, Nicole Green, Garry Jean-Pierre, David Gallegos

Spring 2014 - Alex Francis, Carlton Reeves, Rob Salamon

Innovation and Entrepreneurship on Campus

Promoting student innovation and entrepreneurship

At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student innovation and entrepreneurship is a newly minted campus wide initiative with faculty, staff, and administrators. Within the campus various departments, organizations, and groups have emerged. From the departments, the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business hosts the New Venture Business Plan Competition where students are mentored for one semester weekend classes devoted to key areas of interest when pursuing a new venture. At the end of this competition the students walk away with a business plan and presentation that have been judged by industry experts and potential seed funding for their new venture. Additionally, the Business School hosts the Scheinfeld Entrepreneur Fund, which is another business plan competition and they provide seed capital for promising student startups. The other major initiative is the campus wide, multidisciplinary, collaborative Student Startup Challenge, that helps students formulate teams in hopes of developing a prototype and launching a business. This challenge also provides seed capital to budding student entrepreneurs.

The Design and Visual Communications majors through the Peck School of the Arts are building seniors in innovation and entrepreneurship thinking. The senior thesis course challenges students to think of design in a new fashion. The semester long course integrates other disciplines such as prototyping and business thinking. At the end of the semester students present to judges their business idea at the public Design Entrepreneurship Showcase. The following semester design students are challenged with social entrepreneurship issues in Milwaukee communities. Teams of students are required to work with community leaders and impact their community in a positive way. At the end of the course, a showcase is presented to the public.  

Beyond the business competition and design courses, students are showcasing their involvement in entrepreneurship through three key student organizations: Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, American Marketing Association, and Student Entrepreneurship Startup Organization. Lastly, beyond the extracurricular activities students can always take courses focused on entrepreneurship such as Product Realization, Innovation and Commercialization, Entrepreneurship as well as many other courses. In addition to these opportunities students now have access to the Prototyping Club at UWM, which was founded in the Spring of 2017. This club focuses on using design thinking and the innovation process to create projects as a club, or encourage individual inventions. The Prototyping Club helps to oversee the Makerspace in the Engineering Mathematics and Science Building at UWM, and many of their projects involve the space or using the tools in it.

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Student Leadership Circle:

UIF Fall 2018: Kaitlyn Jankowski (, Justin Davis (, Mitchell Merz (, Ilian Iliev (

UIF Spring 2017: Madeline Horinek (

UIF Fall 2015: Aaron Davis ( ; Tahereh Hosseini (

UIF Spring 2015:  Amin Mojtahedi (;  Nicole Green (;  Garry Jean-Pierre ( ; David Gallegos (

UIF: Alex Francis (; Rob Salamon (

AMA: Abby Williams (
CEO: Nick Anderson (President,
SESO: David Roehrich (Vice President,
SAE: Andrew Caron (President,
ASME: Alex Murray (President,

Encouraging faculty innovation and entrepreneurship

At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee innovation and entrepreneurship are encouraged within their faculty and staff. Faculty are urged to forge partnerships with local businesses to collaborate on research projects and develop new technologies. The UWM Research Foundation is an auxiliary resource for the university and the catalyst on campus for faculty innovation. The goals of the UWM-RF is to provide opportunities for faculty and staff to gain venture funding, develop intellectual property, form a business unit, and truly go out and create a business. The UWM Research Foundation has created a set of programs designed to bridge the gap between research and commercialization. These programs target a range of activities from early discovery through commercialization. The Research Fellows Program provides grants to graduate students over and above other types of support; these "kicker grants" help UWM faculty in key areas to attract and retain the best and brightest students who play a critical role in their research programs. The Catalyst Grant Program provides seed funding to research projects with high potential for return on investment - through commercialization or ability to attract funding from other sources. The objective with faculty entrepreneurs is also to promote corporate partnerships and startup companies in hopes that they can commercialize ideas as they reach later stages of maturity. Underlying all of these activities is the management of intellectual property - which including assessing ideas, protecting intellectual property through patents and copyrights as well as licensing activities.


Faculty Leadership Circle:

UWM Chancellor: Dr. Mark Mone

College of Engineering and Applied Science: Dr. Ilya Avdeev (

Peck School of the Arts: Dr. Kim Beckman (; Nathaniel Stern (

UWM Research Foundation: Brian Thompson (President,; Carlton Reeves (Entrepreneur in Residence,

UWM Director of Web and Mobile Strategy: interm

Faculty and Student Collaboration

Connections and collaboration between faculty has produced successful start-up competitions and funding opportunities for students. Moving forward, students and student organizations will establish a coherent engine of their own alongside their faculty role models with a Student Leadership Circle. Student leaders in organizations like CEO, AMA, and SESO which focus on entrepreneurial thinking will lead collaborative projects to prepare students for these on-campus idea and start-up competitions. Collaboration will not be limited to entrepreneurial organizations but encompass other disciplines which act as a valuable resource to the budding entrepreneur at UWM. Resources in the engineering department such as the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) are available as a fantastic technical resource for product design and development.

In the Spring of 2014 the University Innovations Fellow candidates at UWM plan to bring this Student Leadership Circle together for the first time for a kickoff event. Leaders from various student organizations will help lead teams of innovative students through the opportune program from 3DS. Meanwhile, the Faculty Leadership Circle will be able to provide valuable resources such as campus space, publicity for their competitions, and guidance for new ideas.

UWM Innovators Expo 2016

An all campus event that showcased all “Innovators, Creators, and Entrepreneurs” on the UWM Campus. It served as an end of the year celebration

for these people to be the main event for the campus to see the research, programs, startups, student orgs, winners, and support among the innovation ecosystem. It included over 25 student winners, 10 student organization and a total of 70+ participants.

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee is a large campus with a big innovation ecosystem that includes many initiatives. We wanted to find a way that all of these people, orgs, programs could be represented in one evening so the community surrounding UWM can survey what our University has been doing.

The Innovators Expo was also important for the UWM community to be exposed to other components on campus. The business, engineering, freshwater science’s, art and more all have some innovation and entrepreneurial activities happening.  The event is a seed that has been planted, hoping to grow within an active entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem leading up to programing and events to be housed in the new Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship on campus.

When & Where

May 3, 2016 | 5:30 – 7:30pm | 6pm (short) program

UWM Golda Meir Library Conference Room


The event was made possible by Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business, UWM Research Foundation, Student Startup Challenge, and University Innovation Fellows. Each entity kicked in funds to support however the Fellows put in sweat equity.

Who Showcased

There were five teams that represented the I-Corps program and seven from Student Startup Challenge. Two teams from our Design and Visual Communications program, four from the business school, one national team winners of the maker’s competition, and one from Big Idea Tournament. In addition to winners, there were five student organizations, one entity called the App Brewery and a high school group Student Startup Challenge has partnered with through the year. The Lubar School of Business and the UWM Research Foundation also had tables to showcase their winners.

Panther Bucks

While at the event, guests were given fake money worth three million PantherBucks. Their duty was to invest in ideas they felt were “good.” All money could be given to one team or split up among teams. The winner with most money in their box at the end of the night is the winning PantherBuck winner and receives a real $100.

Name Badges

Each exhibitor and special guest that came to the event was given a laser cut wood badge with the the event logo cut out. The badges were designed by one UIF, Nicole Green and 70 badges were cut by another UIF, Alex Francis.

Laser cutting parameters:

⅛” Basswood (we used 8” x 24” sheets)

35 W Laser cutter settings:

In addition to the badges, people that were attendees of the event were able to fill out a written name tag that had printed with the logo and event branding.

Short Program

Key stakeholders on campus for innovation and entrepreneurship spoke about their support for the ecosystem.  These stakeholders included Pathways members Ilya Avdeev and Brian Thompson as well as the UWM Chancellor Mark Mone, and business school dean Kanti Prasad.  Their insights and discussions showcased entrepreneurial activity on campus, competitions, new startups, and building activities for a brand new entrepreneurship center.

Organizing Expoers

It took a lot effort, if not the most stress of it all, to organize all the presenters.

We had to get all the participants names (to be etched on the wood name badge), emails and other important details like the name of their startup, short description, logo. We were also very persistent about confirming their participation. The organizing team found that it was best to have participants fill out a google form for all of this information.

When discussing details with the presenters, we stressed the importance that they “own their space.” Each participant was given a four foot table space and they were advised to bring computer monitors, posters, displays and so on. While planning the space, it was important to know if a participant was expecting a space near an electrical outlet.
Pre-Meeting (Pop-Up)

The organizational team planned a meeting for all the participants. It went over details of the night, set up time, and expectations. Additionally we hosted a Pop-Up class which is a platform we have established at UWM. They are two hour classes open to anyone focused on startup/entrepreneurial topics. After the expectation portion of the meeting, our Pop-Up commenced focusing on large crowd showcasing.
Setup and Preparation

On the day of event, the space was open to all of the expoers to come and set up their space the way they would like. The setup began at 1 and open until 4:30pm. Someone who was “in charge” of the event was there throughout the duration of the setup time.  

Final Thoughts

This event was impressive. This event was definitely a highlight for the UWM community for all stakeholders. We learned that we needed to adjust a few things, but overall, it was a successful event.

Actively supporting the university technology transfer function

The Technology Transfer Office at UWM helps faculty members spin off research projects into new ventures while striving to make the entire commercialization process easier and painless. While both the goal of the Technology Transfer Office and the UWM Research Foundation is to make the management of intellectual property such as assessing ideas, protecting intellectual property through patents and copyrights as well as licensing activities as clear cut and simple as possible. Beyond the legal services, the Technology Transfer Office and the UWM Research Foundation also provide one-on-one mentoring where faculty can undergo business model canvas sessions, utilize lean startup methodologies, and work with the UWM-RF Entrepreneur-in-Residence to flush out their potential business for their research. The doing all of this the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee realized that it is important that they quantify the stages of their intellectual property and focus on gaining patents and copyrights, with a real goal of procuring license agreements.

Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration

At UWM, we strive towards creating mutually beneficial university-industry collaborations. Traditionally, our largest industry collaborators have been Ansys, General Electric Healthcare, Rockwell Automation, and Johnson Controls. These companies have assisted in research projects, laboratory, and in some cases maintain facilities with personnel on campus working hand in hand with faculty, staff, and students. More recently, the University has begun developing new incubator spaces with the Innovation Campus, where UWM aims at developing a world-class, public-private research park that spurs strong and enduring partnerships between academia and industry leading to new products, spin off businesses, workforce development and jobs. For example the future of biomedical research is in translational research, which takes ideas from the lab to the patient bedside. At the same time, Southeastern Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector still employs significant numbers and is looking for ways to innovate and diversify. Another branch within the Innovation Accelerator is the UWM Mobile and Innovation Lab but fondly referred to as the App Brewery. The Brewery works to create mobile apps that benefit the Greater Milwaukee Community while providing real world work experience to add to a student's portfolio. Partnerships include Wisconsin Medical College, Waukesha County Libraries, and nonprofits.


UWM’s Innovation Campus takes advantage of both these areas of strength by offering a place for partnership and proximity to encourage entrepreneurship, while also providing ways for technology businesses to expand and remain competitive.

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On June 6, 2013, UWM broke ground on a 100,000 square-foot addition to the existing Water Institute, transforming the structure into the new graduate-level School of Freshwater Sciences harbor campus.  The new space houses research support facilities, laboratories, teaching spaces and collaboration spaces.

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Areas of Interest

Research expertise at UWM are closely compatible with the regional economic opportunities -- health care, biomedical engineering, advanced manufacturing and energy.

Health Care

Healthcare Informatics

  • Health Sciences (medical searching)
  • Nursing (evidence-based nursing)
  • Engineering (computation)

Biomedical Engineering

Medical Imaging/Biomedical Imaging

  • Spectroscopy
  • Tools to study proteins and their interactions
  • Applied research in image reconstruction for MRI, CT and other modalities
  • Motion-tracking systems to improve quality in medical imaging
  • Image analysis and tracking tools to assist in stem cell research
  • Spine Biomechanics Research


  • Behavior with potential connections with proteomics.

Chemistry and Biochemistry

  • Chemical synthesis
  • Synthesis of molecules that target CNS disorders
  • Addiction and other diseases
  • Environmental studies
  • Drugs Development & Discovery

Advanced Manufacturing & Energy

Sensors & Devices

  • Applications in water, energy, and advanced manufacturing
  • Connections with materials research
  • Applications for advanced nanomaterials as sensing platforms

Advanced Materials

  • Fundamental materials research in spintronics (next-generation computation devices)
  • Coatings
  • Nanomaterials
  • Applied research in castings
  • Materials for biomedical devices
  • Composite Materials

Advanced Manufacturing & Computer Science

Teaching Innovation

Classes that Utilize the Start-up Mentality

Technology Entrepreneurship & the Lean Launchpad

- The course is a collaboration with a local NFP  The course focuses on evidence-based fact finding tactics that get you closer to establishing a viable business model. Veterans directly engage with customers to test the validity of their business model, while interacting with mentors that can help interpret what the startup is hearing from potential customers. Victory Spark (the full Vetransfer Program) was founded by grant funding from the Federal the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation and continues today from financial support from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and our awesome sponsors!

Steve Blank’s Customer Development process is an essential component of Victory Spark. During the time in the program, each startup learns the methods and process to discovering and developing a profitable and repeatable business model.

Product Realization

Companies need time and talent to develop new product prototypes. Students need real world experience. The ANSYS Institute’s “Product Realization Course” brings these groups together. Students design, test and produce a prototype for companies that offer funding and mentorship. Aurora Healthcare, Eaton Corporation, Rexnord, BizStarts and the Medical College of Wisconsin are just some of the organizations that have used the class to take their ideas to the next step.

How It Works

The Product Realization course is a regular course offering. Industry sponsors pay a fee to cover expenses and provide engineering personnel to mentor their student project team. The multidisciplinary approach has real benefit. The course is co-taught by an engineering professor and an art professor. Students form interdisciplinary teams of engineers, artists and designers. They review the company’s product brief, determine a budget and timeline, then design and build the prototype.

Ilya Avdeev, Ph.D, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Nathaniel Stern, Ph.D., associate professor of art and design and head of digital studio practice in the Peck School of the Arts, collaborate and oversee the 15-week process. Some of the projects have included eye-tracking software, wheelchair design, wave energy collectors and personal lighting devices for roadside emergencies.

The ANSYS Institute gives students hands-on access to computer-aided-engineering capabilities; a versatile A/V presentation system; studio space with workbench areas for physical prototype development and assembly; and equipment for rapid-prototyping, reverse engineering and rapid product development. Teams operate in an open lab environment that encourages a free exchange of ideas across groups.

Classes that Encourage Industry-Academic Collaboration

Central to the School of Architecture and Urban Planning's educational philosophy is the fundamental principle that excellence in design and research involves direct and extended interaction with design professionals and culture. The School’s sponsored studio program provides this enhanced access to the profession and affiliated businesses for faculty and students. Each of the sponsored studios focuses on a unique aspect of design and includes the engagement of professionals from architecture, development, material design, manufacturing and building management with students in the studio environment. The business partners provide funding to support studio activities, travel, lectures, publications and materials.

Design Intelligencesays the School's program is "an amazing symbiosis between practice and education."

The sponsored studio program is based on a mutually beneficial, multi-year arrangement between SARUP and the business partner. Two such studios, the IP BIM Studio, coordinated by Associate Professor Gil Snyderand Adjunct Professor Jim Dickerin collaboration with Eppstein Uhen Architects, and the Workshop Studio conducted by Associate Professor Brian Schermerin conjunction with Workshop Architects, have received NCARB Prizesfor their integration of practice and the academy. Students from a number of sponsored studios consistently participate in a variety of national and international competitions resulting in a host of awards and opportunities.

Design Thinking Studio

- Course Description

David Kelley, founder of IDEO, once said: “Designers are more trusted and integrated into the business strategy of companies”. Design Thinking Studio is an experiential and human-centered design course whose goal is for students to come up with innovative design solutions which could boost engagement, productivity, performance, collective learning, and ultimately, individual and organizational growth in work and learning spaces. Design solutions can vary in scale – from a single piece of furniture to a configuration of larger program spaces – and/or in strategy – from introducing new physical objects to incorporating new technologies into the space.

To inspire students, the class will be visiting and exploring some of the exemplary workplaces in Milwaukee and Chicago. Moreover, they will have the opportunity to talk to experts in the field. Accordingly, students will be introduced to the Design Thinking Framework to develop their innovative design solutions for work and learning spaces. The solutions will be collected in a catalog and will eventually be evaluated in review panels based on their innovative potential to impact the architecture/design industry.

- Area of Focus

Areas of focus include but are not limited to innovation in: architecture industry, design industry, knowledge management strategies, and learning methods. Some examples of solutions might include: physical-virtual coupling in work and learning spaces, using sensor-network technology to evaluate work and learning spaces, smart workplace furniture, design patterns to increase the likelihood of collisions and serendipitous encounters, etc.

- Experiential Learning Opportunity

The class is designed around the experiential learning model. As students go through the Design Thinking Framework, they have to observe and talk to users directly, capture and analyze the dynamics of work and learning spaces, articulate problems and opportunities, ideate in teams and share their solutions with users to receive feedback and iterate, and finally, provide something for the user to be able to interact with.

There will also be review and mentoring sessions in which innovators, entrepreneurs, and people with expertise in innovative learning methods and workplace strategies will help students throughout the process.

- What to Achieve

The learning goal on the individual level is to influence the identity of students to become entrepreneurial learners – a generation of learners who constantly look around for new ways and new resources to learn new things and generate new ideas.

The learning goal on the collective level is for students to work together to create a collective catalog/portfolio including all of their innovative solutions that can change work and learning

Engaging with regional and local economic development efforts

Veteran Representation Movement

Two years ago, there were two graduate students, Mike Kirchner and Lia Coryell, that decided to start a student organization as part of their graduate coursework. After some research they found a national organization, Student Veterans of America (SVA) to become a local chapter of. Unfortunately, the first year was slow going and the two were trying to get their feet wet with the process of requesting funds, office space and answering the question- what are we going to do. At the time there were few people involved and even fewer new people that stuck around after attending one meeting. Those that did stay were dedicated to becoming a resource for veterans on campus and all took an active leadership role. Going into year two, SVA had a loose framework, a business plan and a lot of meetings- but no new members and no real purpose. As one of the founding officers, Rob Salamon had pushed to limit the formal meetings and to get more people actively engaged one way or another.

Related Links

University of WIsconsin Milwaukee

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Student Priorities


Cory Engdahl

Aaron Davis

Rustin Bergren

Tehereh Hosseini

Amin Mojtahedi

Nicole Green

Garry Jean-Pierre

David Gallegos

Alex Francis

Carlton Reeves

Rob Salamon

Tou Jim Lee




Madeline Horinek