Foxconn, Exact, Ludois, & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist
A major deal between Wisconsin legislators and a foreign electronics assembler, a biotech company’s expansion plans, and an award for electric motors research are among these recent headlines from the state’s innovation community:
—The state of Wisconsin and Foxconn, an electronics assembler and technology development business based in Taiwan, signed off on a deal that promises to put a huge manufacturing facility in the southeastern Wisconsin town of Mount Pleasant, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Since July, when Foxconn announced plans to invest $10 billion to build a plant in Wisconsin and make electronics displays there, the company has been negotiating with economic development officials and others in Wisconsin over a package of incentives the state is providing to Foxconn.
The state has said it will award up to $3 billion in tax credits and other incentives to Foxconn, which has pledged to create up to 13,000 jobs. Starting in 2022, Foxconn reportedly must demonstrate that it has met or exceeded certain thresholds—total number of employees at the facility and their average salary, for example—to receive the maximum payments outlined in the contract.
—Madison-based Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS), which is developing diagnostic tests for several different types of cancer, announced it intends to quadruple its current test-processing capacity by mid-2019 and expand its workforce by about one-quarter by 2022. The news is significant, but not surprising; last month, after Exact’s quarterly financial and business performance exceeded analysts’ expectations for the fourth consecutive time, executives at the company spoke publicly about some of its growth projections.
Exact said that today, it is able to process about 1 million tests of Cologuard, the company’s stool-based DNA test for colorectal cancer, each year. Exact recently purchased a building on Madison’s west side that used to be operated by Spectrum Brands (NYSE: SPB). Exact is already using office space at the site, and said it also plans to build additional lab space there. The company said its new lab will likely be ready to use within two years, at which point Exact will be able to process 4.5 million Cologuard tests per year.
—We recapped the inaugural Marquette Blockchain Conference, an event that drew hundreds of investors, software professionals, and others to Milwaukee to examine trends in blockchain and digital currencies. Leaders from Milwaukee-area financial services firms like Northwestern Mutual and Fiserv (NASDAQ: FISV) spoke about the potential of blockchain and other data-encrypting technologies, as well as some of the some of the potential roadblocks that could inhibit their mass adoption.
—The Palo Alto, CA-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation named Dan Ludois, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the foundation’s Moore Inventor Fellows of 2017. As part of the award, the Moore Foundation has awarded $825,000 to Ludois over the next three years to demonstrate the utility of an electrostatic motor he and other researchers are working to develop. The motor uses electrostatic forces to turn electricity into a rotary force, rather than the magnetic field; this design eliminates the need for copper and rare earth elements, the foundation said.
Ludois is also a co-founder of C-Motive, a Madison-based startup that’s seeking to commercialize electric motor technology. Justin Reed, president and CEO of C-Motive, said by e-mail that the new funding award is likely to “at the very least indirectly” benefit C-Motive.
—Aurora Health Care, a Milwaukee-based network of hospitals and clinics, has been quietly investing in and working with startups in recent years to help advance ideas for new digital health products and services. Aurora began working with some of its startup partners, including Washington, D.C.-based Babyscripts, through the healthcare provider’s participation in StartUp Health, an industry consortium. Aurora has also supported several local startups, work that appears likely to continue as the organization begins making investments out of its new $5 million InvestMKE fund.
—GenoPalate, a company developing DNA collection kits and biomarkers that analyze genetic data and suggest foods users should eat, was among the Wisconsin-based startups awarded $20,000 in a healthcare-focused pitch contest. Bridge to Cures, a Milwaukee-area nonprofit accelerator for healthcare companies spun out of universities, put on the competition. According to a press release, other winners included MedSync-Rx (a smartphone app to coordinate medication refills) and PROMISS Diagnostics (technology to distinguish between cancerous and benign masses in the ovary).
—Gener8tor, a Wisconsin-based organization that runs training programs for early-stage businesses and invests in them, is teaming up with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and other partners to launch a series of seven-week, equity-free startup accelerator programs in northeastern Wisconsin. The series is separate from another recently announced collaboration involving Microsoft and the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, who are helping create a new venture capital fund and startup accelerator that will be based next to the team’s home stadium.