What Can Madison Learn From Seattle? Q&A With the New Head of WARF
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property and the inventions that come out of the great scientists of UW-Madison very seriously, which is important for the integrity and well-being of the scientists and the university.
X: How do you think Seattle’s life sciences sector compares to Madison’s?
EI: Seattle is or has been historically a top-five biotech hub in the country. I believe Madison could get there. Seattle is historically a very small city, and has grown into this, largely because of the University of Washington’s technologies. I believe that Madison holds great promise in becoming a real technology center, by leveraging the business communities of Milwaukee, Madison, and surrounding cities and states, from Chicago to Minneapolis and elsewhere.
X: What about Seattle and Madison’s software industries, and the startup communities they’ve helped to produce? Do you see any similarities there?
EI: Again, from a biotech perspective, Seattle is one of the top five hubs. But as an IT, computer and Internet technology base, it’s a leader. I was here in Seattle during the 1990s. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) was already really well-established, but I [witnessed] all of the spinouts and wealth that was created, and innovation.
It takes the combination of a great research institution, like UW-Madison, working in conjunction with a growing business community with some core tenants, such as Epic Systems, and working with the government and the legislature to create the necessary engines and ecosystems to build a strong technology community that benefits the entire state, if not the nation as a whole.
The ingredients for the recipe are there. Now, it’s getting to know the community, WARF, the university, the citizens of Wisconsin, and getting to know the legislature [in order] to build those ingredients into a true recipe, and then baking it into something great.
X: How familiar are you with the state budget cuts that UW-Madison and other schools in the UW system are currently dealing with? What can WARF do to help the university overcome some of these challenges?
EI: I don’t know enough about those constraints to speak to them. I really need to get into WARF, and I need to speak with all the people associated with WARF and its operations. [I need to get a] better understanding of the constraints that the legislature or the government in general has to grapple with, what’s important to the state, and most importantly, what’s important to the university. But I just simply don’t know enough yet to be able to respond to that intelligently, so I’m going to take some time to get to know things better.
X: When you hear the letters “UW” now, is it going to be hard to not automatically think of the University of Washington?
EI: When I hear it, I now immediately see red. I wore a University of Wisconsin baseball cap the other day and my son looked at it and said, ‘Hey, that’s a different W!’ It is a funny thing, but it’ll be alright.