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Morgridge discovery grants spark creative, collaborative proposals for research

University Of Wisconsin-Madison : 30 August, 2006  (Technical Article)
Response to the effort by John and Tashia Morgridge to jump-start the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery by providing $3 million in seed grants for research has exceeded expectations, generating more than 220 initial proposals.
The Morgridges, both University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni, hoped the Discovery Seed Grant program would lay the groundwork for the institutes and inspire the entire UW-Madison community to collaborate and consider new approaches to old problems.

The response to the seed grant initiative was broad-based, with more than 115 university departments listed on the proposals. The faculty committee that will review the proposals has more than 220 letters of intent to evaluate.

The response was diverse in terms of where the proposals originated across the campus and the state of Wisconsin. The committee will be reviewing ideas from 10 UW-Madison schools and colleges, 44 industry partners, and 42 colleges and universities all over the world.

'We are overwhelmed by the response from the campus community,' John Morgridge says. 'It is clear that the UW-Madison is committed to collaboration to solve the world's most pressing problems.'

'We are anxious to see which of these proposals will be successful in the faculty review process,' Tashia Morgridge adds.

The Morgridges announced in April that they were giving $50 million - the largest individual gift ever to benefit the university - for construction of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. That was matched by $50 million from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and $50 million from the state.

The institutes, one private and one public, will bring together researchers from a broad spectrum of disciplines to attack the problems of disease, advance regenerative medicine and solve other important problems. The institutes will be located on the 1300 block of University Avenue.

Not surprisingly, some of the most prolific inventors on campus were also the most active in submitting proposals. One inventor was listed on 15 applications, three were listed on nine, and 16 had more than six.

A number of faculty members from other Wisconsin institutions were included as collaborating researchers, including UW-Milwaukee, UW-Whitewater, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Marshfield Clinic, the Madison Metropolitan School District and Baraboo Middle School.

Industry was also well represented. Proposals from the private sector included many UW-Madison startup companies, 3M, Amgen, GE Healthcare and Aurora Health Care.

'This response demonstrates that the campus is excited about the possibilities provided by the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery,' says Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. 'We have a long way to go to bring the vision to reality, but this is a fantastic start.'

Paul Peercy, dean of the UW-Madison College of Engineering and chair of the Research Steering Committee for the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, is sending a memo to all applicants outlining the process for review and selection. The letters of intent will be evaluated by August.

Successful applicants will be invited to submit full proposals, which will be due by Oct. 1. The seed grants will be awarded in December.
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