This Week’s Wisconsin Watch: Rockwell, Connecture, Shine, & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Here are some of the major Wisconsin innovation news items from the past week:

—Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK) announced it’s working with software giant Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Cambridge, MA-based Nubisa to expand its mobile toolkit for workers in industrial settings, where there may not be reliable wireless Internet. Technology from Project Thali, a software platform that allows offline devices to communicate with one another, will also be used as part of the partnership. Rockwell will unveil its new app, which it’s calling Project Stanton, at the Automation Fair event in Chicago later this week.

—Brookfield-based Connecture (NASDAQ: CNXR) named Jeff Surges CEO, effective Nov. 17. Current CEO Doug Schneider will stay on as president and chief product officer. Connecture, which develops Web-based software that helps consumers shop for health insurance, went public in December. Shares debuted at $8.80 but have since fallen; as of this writing, Connecture’s stock price is $4.45, a decline of nearly 50 percent since the IPO.

—Shine Medical Technologies, a Madison-based startup, has taken a key step forward in the race to produce a vital medical isotope domestically. Shine and GE Healthcare, which is based in the Milwaukee area, said in a joint announcement that they’ve produced technetium-99m, the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. The two companies, which signed a supply agreement last year, produced the isotope using a nuclear reactor-free method in which a particle accelerator made by Shine is used to generate neutrons; then, a generator made by GE Healthcare is used to decay the original isotope produced, molybdenum-99, into technetium-99m.

—Nine teams will receive a combined $70,000 to use in the next year after they were named winners of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Student Startup Challenge. Their ideas range from a website that helps new businesses obtain short-term office leases to software for patients and physical therapists to track rehabilitation progress. The competition is part of the school’s Ideas Challenge, which also includes two business plan competitions, the university said.

—Madison-based biotech Cellular Dynamics announced a deal with Swiss pharma giant Roche that could be worth up to $83 million. As part of the agreement, Roche will be granted exclusive access to Cellular Dynamics’ supplies of manufactured human stem cells, which can help researchers identify and formulate new drugs. The deal marks Cellular Dynamics’ largest collaboration to date, chairman and CEO Kaz Hirao said in a written statement.

— Liz Eversoll is probably best known as the founder and CEO of Solomo Technology, a Madison-based company that makes software and sensor devices to connect businesses with consumers. But last year she also founded Whitewater-based Meeper Technology, which makes sensor-enabled robot toys. The startup recently launched a Kickstarter campaign through which Meeper is seeking to raise $20,000 to commercialize its meeperBOTS, Lego platforms on wheels that can be controlled by iOS and Android devices.

—Zach Halmstad, a partner focused on product strategy at JAMF Software, said he didn’t take a paycheck for the first five years after he founded the company in 2002. His frugality appears to have paid off: JAMF, which is based in Minneapolis but has significant operations in Eau Claire, WI—where Halmstad lives—now has more than $52 million in annual revenue, more than 5,500 customers, and nearly 500 employees. JAMF helps businesses set up and manage Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) computers and mobile devices that employees use for work.