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Wisconsin Roundup: Johnson Controls, Baird, The Water Council & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

A busy week for Johnson Controls, plus more news from Wisconsin’s tech and innovation community:

—High-ranking employees at Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird and Co. plan to raise $50 million for a private equity fund, according to a Sept. 10 SEC filing. Seven executives, including CEO Paul Purcell, are named in the filing. The fund will be called Baird Principal Group Partners Fund I Limited Partnership.

—A four-CEO panel emphasized the importance of institutional buy-in to grow the life sciences industry in Wisconsin at Wednesday’s BioScience Summit, an annual conference in Madison organized by state trade association BioForward. Kevin Conroy of Exact Sciences mentioned the Wisconsin state legislature, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UW Hospital, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation as organizations he’d like to see get more involved.

—The Water Council and the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium, both based in Milwaukee, announced a collaboration Thursday to address “the energy-water nexus.” The two organizations will convene with industry experts for four workshops between now and April 2016, and put together a “final report and joint plan” by June 1, 2016. The plan will explore technologies “to decouple the requirement of energy for water and water for energy,” according to a press release.

—Madison is one of 15 communities that will share in a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation aimed at fostering high-tech partnerships between universities and the cities they call home, UW-Madison announced Monday. Suman Banerjee, a computer science professor at the university, has been piloting projects to put wireless Internet on buses in Madison and ambulances in Milwaukee. He’s also working with Madison Internet service provider 5Nines, which recently launched a free 4G wireless network for businesses.

—Superior, WI-based Fasetto, which makes both cloud storage software and solid state drives, has raised $5 million since 2014, says CEO Coy Christmas. The company plans to use the money to hire more software developers and put finishing touches on its wearable Link, which can hold up to a terabyte of data and will go on sale in March 2016.

—Glendale-based Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) said it will team up with Beijing Hainachuan Automotive Parts to manufacture and sell car batteries in China, the world’s biggest car market. The batteries will be able to power conventional vehicles as well as those with “start-stop” systems, which shut off a car’s engine while it’s idling and have become increasingly popular as China works to reduce carbon emissions. JCI did not disclose financial details in the press release it issued Tuesday announcing the partnership.

On Wednesday, JCI announced it’s adding Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery production capacity to factories in China, Germany, and the U.S. JCI will invest $555 million in AGM technology, which is central to stop-start systems, between 2011 and 2020.

In addition making auto parts, JCI also designs systems to make buildings more efficient and secure. That side of the company made headlines last week when JCI sold a Gaithersburg, MD-based business unit, Johnson Controls Security Systems, to Springfield, VA-based Versar (NYSE: VSR) for $20 million. According to a press release issued by Versar, the deal is expected to close Sept. 30.

JCI will decide in the next year whether it will expand in downtown Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Business Journal reported Tuesday. It figures that the company will plan any major building projects around the spin-off of its Automotive Experience business, which it announced in July and said will close by the summer of 2016.