UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Gives Update On New Entrepreneurship Building

Those who follow startups closely are likely familiar with the term “pivot,” which refers to a change in course from the original vision of an early-stage company.

Mark Mone, who is chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and described as a “gourmet cook” on the school’s website, said he’s no stranger to improvisation himself.

“If you’re following the recipe, you’re not really cooking,” Mone said Thursday.

He was speaking as part of a presentation by UWM leaders that provided updates on the school’s initiatives related to entrepreneurship and innovation.

Mone said the university expects to break ground on the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship, a building that he said will function as an ideas hub and “gateway” to campus, in 2018. The project was made possible by a $10 million gift from Sheldon and Marianne Lubar, which the school announced in July. The University of Wisconsin System has since pledged $10 million in matching funds. It was the only one out of five proposals for capital projects that was approved in 2015, Mone said.

The new building will be home to numerous programs for enterprising students and faculty, said Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation. Some will be new, such as an initiative to engage first-year students and another focused on social entrepreneurship. Others already exist: the Student Startup Challenge, launched in 2012 under previous chancellor Mike Lovell, who in 2014 headed across town to take the top job at Marquette University; and I-Corps, a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation focused on customer discovery and gauging potential demand for product ideas.

For reasons that include reduced funding to UW System schools in the most recent state budget, Mone said future expansions at the UWM may require it to enlist the help of the private sector. He and Thompson mentioned several current and potential partners in the Milwaukee-area, including corporations like Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) and Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK), nonprofits such as The Water Council, and groups that help startups grow, like Scale Up Milwaukee and BizStarts Milwaukee.

In a follow-up interview with Xconomy, Thompson said energy around entrepreneurship at UWM “continues to build” since the school named Mone chancellor, and that there was no discernible loss in momentum when Lovell departed. Thompson said he welcomes efforts at Marquette and other institutions to boost the area’s startup scene.

“Right now, it might not be possible to do too much,” he said.

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