Commission gives green light to research institutes at University of Wisconsin-Madison
By Ryan Foley, The Chicago Tribune, April 15, 2006
MADISON, Wis. -- The State Building Commission approved plans Wednesday for a $150 million project to build twin research institutes on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
The commission voted 7-1 to build the institutes -- one public, one private -- using $50 million in state funds and $100 million in private donations. The institutes are to bring together teams of researchers from different disciplines, ranging from computer science to biology, to find cures for disease and tackle other scientific problems.
"When you look back five or 10 years from now, the vote we took today will be one of the most profound and important votes that was taken in this state during this period of time," said Gov. Jim Doyle, who has championed the project and chairs the building commission.
The commission's action gives the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, a nonprofit group that is UW-Madison's research and patenting arm, the authority to serve as project manager. The building commission also approved plans for the university to swap land with the research foundation so the private institute is built on private land.
The research foundation is putting $50 million into the project to match the $50 million donated by John and Tashia Morgridge, two UW-Madison graduates. John Morgridge is chairman of San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc.
"We're going to do a first-rate, major research institute," Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the research foundation, promised after the vote. Plans call for construction to begin next year and finish in late 2009.
Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, cast the lone vote against the proposal, which is the first phase of a $375 million plan outlined by Doyle to build the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, a project aimed at making Wisconsin a leader in biomedical research.
Doyle said the public-private partnership will allow private companies to team up with university researchers to move science forward. He said a private building would give researchers space to do stem cell research prohibited using federal grants under President Bush's restrictions.
The governor said the private building would be unique in the Midwest, similar to facilities at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The building commission also called for an outside auditor to evaluate the building process and report to the Legislature. Doyle said the auditor will make sure no public money is spent on the private building.
"This project will pay dividends for generations to come," said UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley, "in life-changing discoveries, a stronger economy and an even better university."
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