MSOE, Noncompetes, NASA, & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist

Keep up with the latest news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:

—The Milwaukee School of Engineering announced it’s building a $34 million facility devoted to artificial intelligence research and computational science education. The four-year college’s goal in constructing the 64,000-square-foot research center is to position MSOE “at the forefront in artificial intelligence, deep learning, cybersecurity, robotics, computing, and other next-generation technologies,” according to a press release. The facility will have classrooms, laboratories, an auditorium, and space for businesses that partner with MSOE, the school said. MSOE plans to break ground on the new center by mid-2018.

—Monona-based Phoenix (formerly Phoenix Nuclear Labs) raised a $12 million Series B round of financing led by New York-based Deerfield Management. Phoenix sells neutron generators and other machines to organizations in industries ranging from healthcare to defense to renewable energy. The company plans to use some of the proceeds from the funding round to construct a new headquarters that can house all of its workers and equipment. Phoenix, which currently has 56 employees, plans to add another 30 by the end of 2018, said vice president of business development Evan Sengbusch.

—Making state legislation governing corporate noncompete agreements more employee-friendly could help spur entrepreneurship in Wisconsin, Troy Vosseller said in an interview with Madison’s Isthmus newspaper. Vosseller is the co-founder of Gener8tor, a Wisconsin-based organization that runs training programs for startups and invests in them. He told Isthmus that he does not know of any venture-backed companies founded by former employees of Wisconsin-based Fortune 500 businesses, a group includes American Family Insurance, Fiserv (NASDAQ: FISV), Northwestern Mutual, and Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK).

The other suggestion Vosseller shared with the newspaper for turning Wisconsin into a place that fosters more high-growth startups is to elevate the computer sciences department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The department recently partnered with Gener8tor on its newest accelerator series, which is known as gALPHA.

—Wauwatosa-based TAI Diagnostics, which is seeking to commercialize a non-invasive test to monitor the health of transplant recipients, plans to begin selling its test in the first half of 2018. The test measures levels of cell-free DNA, genetic material discharged by the patient’s new heart that can enter the bloodstream, to determine whether the patient is in danger of rejecting the organ. TAI Diagnostics has raised about $13 million from investors since launching in 2015, CEO Frank Langley said.

—Seven Chippewa Falls-based scientists who work for Hewlett Packard Enterprise recently kicked off a yearlong collaboration with NASA aimed at testing the resilience of a supercomputer in space, The Chippewa Herald reported. Last year HPE acquired Silicon Graphics International, a software business based in Chippewa Falls, and kept some of its employees there. The city is reportedly home to a supercomputer identical to the “Spacebourne Computer” that was launched into space and reached the International Space Station last month. The HPE scientists will continue running simulations on both computers over the next year to determine how commercial computers hold up in the atmospheric conditions in space.

—Brookfield-based Connecture (NASDAQ: CNXR) said it plans to withdraw its shares from the Nasdaq stock exchange next month. The company, which sells Web-based software designed to aid consumers shopping for health insurance, said it has at times failed to meet the $15 million minimum in market capitalization required to be listed on the exchange. Connecture said it is taking the necessary steps to list its common stock on the OTCQX U.S. Market exchange, an over-the-counter stock marketplace that has less stringent listing requirements.

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