Thursday, June 21, 2012
By Mike Flaherty
BOSTON – The most popular presenter from Wisconsin wasn't even present at the world's largest biotechnology conference here. In fact, the science topic that drew the biggest crowd at the Wisconsin pavilion during BIO International this week was a building -- the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus.
"We consider the Institute itself a scientific experiment,'' said WID Director David Krakhauer, speaking from Madison via the Wisconsin Pavilion's "TelePresence'' system on loan from Cisco Systems.
The institute, he told a standing-room-only crowd gathered in the pavilion, is taking a scientific approach to developing new ways to generate creative ideas – and the world is watching.
Krakhauer said he has been contacted by several countries, including India and Brazil, to help show those countries how to duplicate the WID model of intellectual creativity and the development of new ideas.
"I'm traveling to Brazil next month. That country wants to build 50 institutes like this. India is the same way,'' he said.
The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery is the large, modern building in the heart of UW-Madison's engineering and life sciences research portions of campus. The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, which Krakhauer leads, is devoted to looking at new ways to combine scientific research from many disciplines to create ways of thinking about problems and the science that can solve them.
WID, he said, is home to new forms of scientific research with a primary criteria that each one "doesn't have a name.''
The "Institutes'' also include the Morgridge Institute for Research, which uses the same collaborative model for biomedical research; and the "Town Center'' which is designed as a gathering place for scientists of many disciplines to meet and interact. Classic university structures, he said, result in most scientists "spending time with people who are exactly like they are."
Alternatively, the Institutes intentionally bring scientists from different disciplines together in an attempt to disrupt that norm, he said.
Krakhauer said the setup is drawing young, highly creative scientists from all over the world in engineering, mathematics, health sciences and computer systems who joint together at WID to study cutting edge research.
"The key is spotting talent and giving them the freedom to look at things differently. We're the quirkier younger brother."