• WisBusiness

Monday, April 10, 2006

 3:26 PM 

West Coast Knows of Wisconsin Research Power

John Powers says he never misses a chance to tell his colleagues in Washington State about Wisconsin and the great research produced by UW-Madison scientists.

"Once a badger, always a badger," said Powers, a native of Lake Geneva.

Powers, an attorney and former mayor of Spokane, Wa., now works for Enterprise Seattle.

"I say look at Wisconsin, look at WARF as a model," Powers said. "When people in Washington State are looking for best-practices, I tell them about Wisconsin has done for technology transfer."

Greg Horowitt, who works with a San Diego-based organization called Global Connect, agreed that UW-Madison is well-known in the academic world for its research prowess.

"Certainly WARF has a very high profile," he said. "And UW-Madison is one of the top 10 research universities in the country.

"Whether that translates into creating businesses is another question," he mused.

Horowitt said 20 years ago, San Diego had to "yank down" venture capitalists from the San Francisco Bay area to get them to invest in the city.

"But we were only a hour plane ride from the Bay Area," he said, noting that San Diego now has between 400 and 500 biotech firms and up to $1 billion in VC money invested in the area annually. Another $1 billion in research financing also flows into the city.

Victor Hwang, who works with the Larta Institute in Los Angeles, argued against Wisconsin being able to replicate San Diego's success, however. Larta provides venture capital, seed funding, economic research, and business assistance to entrepreneurs and companies.

"Wisconsin needs to focus on what it does best and that's research," he said. "It needs to focus its strong research talents. I don't know if that is going to produce big companies, but probably more small research and drug disovery enterprises."



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