Tom Still: Spurred by national science goals, Wisconsin groups think beyond geography

Perhaps Wisconsin should thank the National Science Foundation for helping to pull together many of its regional science, technology and economic development players. All it took was a big challenge.

The NSF’s Regional Innovation Engines program is a departure from the agency’s traditional deep research focus because it calls for coordinated ideas that bridge the gap between science and tech to solve today’s problems while stimulating the economy and the workforce.

In short, rather than expecting academic research centers alone to translate science into practical solutions, the NSF is asking for private industry, investors, workforce agencies, key government groups and others to get their hands dirty from the start.

Competition across the United States for this multi-billion-dollar initiative will be intense, with hundreds of concept outlines across an array of topics given the go-ahead to move to the next stage. One such outline involves about 20 partners in Wisconsin and will focus on the state’s strengths in water, energy and reusing waste.

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