Posted tagged ‘Mark Bugher’

UW Startups Get a Boost

October 14, 2013

Yup, things are happening. A New York venture capital fund has pledged to invest $500,000 in student startups. The UW Research Park has made move some moves to help software startups as well. I write in Isthmus:

Great Oaks’ investment in student startups coincides with an uptick in entrepreneurial ferment on campus. Mark Bugher, who’s retiring on Nov. 1 after a long run as director of the University Research Park, noted several new moves in a recent wrap-up interview.

This includes the decision to redesign the Metro Innovation Center, the Research Park’s startup site at 1245 E. Washington Ave. Regarded as the park’s “stake in the ground” on the east side, the site has never taken off, despite occupying only 6,000 square feet in the old Gisholt factory complex. Just two of 10 suites are occupied. Bugher and his deputy Greg Hyer expect the space to be redesigned along a more open concept with cheaper rents than the current $700 to $800 a month.

The bigger news is the Research Park’s purchase (with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) of the old Luther’s Blues building at 1401 University Ave. Hyer put the price at “more than $2 million.” Perhaps better known today as “that purple building,” the site is strategically placed for tech incubation — next to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and near the computer science building.

“It has some real interesting entrepreneurial opportunities for the interaction of students, faculty and the private sector,” notes Hyer, adding that student coworking space will be installed.

To read more, please go here.

In a sidebar, I report that Bugher feels that the Legislature complicates the UW’s efforts to commercialize its biotech research.  Find it here.

Anatomy Of A BioTech Failure

April 1, 2013

On paper, Dane County seems like the perfect place to build a cluster of businesses around the cutting edge bio-technology research of  UW-Madison’s long celebrated College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. But as the city’s failed effort to launch the BioLink greenhouse project shows, there are a hots of compelling reasons why the project never found tenants or solved a financing gap, despite securing a $4.5 million federal grant. As I wrote in this Isthmus story, those reasons included the campus never embracing the city project:

Michael Gay, the city’s former coordinator for business development, is the guy credited with landing the federal grant. He says that while Madison has dropped the ball on bio-ag, other communities like Orlando, St. Louis and even Saskatoon (in Canada!) have moved forward on agricultural biotechnology. “It’s all about community partnerships,” he says of their advances.

Gay talks gently on this point, but others don’t. The UW, the source of so much extraordinary agricultural research, never stepped up to the plate on BioLink. It’s the familiar complaint, warranted or not, that the campus does not play well with others.

Some fault the leadership at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for turning its back on BioLink. But reality is that the college had far bigger fish to fry: launching the federally funded $125 million Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. “BioLink was not a project that CALS was vested in,” admits Rick Lindroth, CALS’s associate dean for research. “It was not critical to our vision.”

While the University Research Park provided BioLink planners with technical support, director Mark Bugher says his team is focused on developing a new 371-acre research park on the west side. “It caught us at a bad time,” he says of BioLink. “My comment internally was that we needed this distraction like we needed a hole in the head. It’s unfortunate. I feel badly about it. The city had an opportunity, but there are some lessons to be learned.”

Successful projects require “a purpose and use that everybody agrees is needed,” he points out. “And people have got to come together.”

But it’s telling that Bugher also acknowledges that Madison leaders are going in “eight different directions” on tech development.

 

To read more, please go here.


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