Wisconsin Roundup: Uber, Lovell, BrightStar, Energy Incubator & More

8/5/14Follow @XconomyWI

Here are a few notable recent happenings in Wisconsin’s tech and innovation community:

—Controversial startups Uber and Lyft have gone legit in Milwaukee, after Mayor Tom Barrett signed legislation last week that legalizes the on-demand transportation apps and lifts the cap on city taxi permits, the Milwaukee Business Journal reported. Uber and Lyft, which have faced heated opposition locally and nationally by traditional cab services, now have the local government’s blessing to operate—assuming their drivers comply with licensing and inspection regulations. And Barrett told the newspaper he wouldn’t be shocked if local taxi companies challenge the law in court. Another open question: Will Madison’s government follow suit with a path to legalization for Uber and Lyft?

—Construction of the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium’s planned incubator space in Milwaukee’s inner city is slated to begin in September. The $9.6 million Energy Innovation Center will be in the mold of The Water Council’s Global Water Center near downtown Milwaukee, with both bringing together industry, academia, and entrepreneurs to develop technology and help nurture startup companies. Last week, the state awarded the energy consortium $900,000 for the center, which followed a $122,000 city grant last year.

—Marquette University president Mike Lovell was named co-chair of the Innovation in Milwaukee, or MiKE, initiative. Lovell recently stepped down as University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee chancellor, where he helped develop several student entrepreneurship programs and partnerships with other local colleges. MiKE, a Greater Milwaukee Committee program, is going through its own leadership transition after it recently hired Michael Hostad as executive director. Lovell and Hostad previously worked together at UW-Milwaukee, where Hostad served as director of Web and mobile strategy and as Lovell’s ambassador for entrepreneurship and innovation.

—The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has created a $1 million program that will provide matching grants of up to $250,000 to startups that receive federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants. The state’s SBIR Advance program is being administered by the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Center for Technology Commercialization.

—BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, which invests charitable donations in Wisconsin startups, announced a new program that allows donors to earmark their contributions for companies with ties to University of Wisconsin-Madison and for UW-Madison’s new Discovery to Product initiative that aims to boost commercialization of campus startups.

Jeff Engel is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @XconomyWI

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