UW-Madison to Upgrade Engineering Campus With $100M Foxconn Gift

Foxconn, a leading Taiwanese contract manufacturer constructing a huge electronic display assembly plant in Southeastern Wisconsin, announced a $100 million gift to the state’s flagship public university Monday. The company’s gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison will support research and development of new technologies statewide, Foxconn said.

The nine-figure gift from Foxconn is one of the largest in UW-Madison’s history, chancellor Rebecca Blank said during a signing ceremony held on the school’s campus Monday

The Foxconn gift will allow the university to replace a building on its engineering campus with a new facility that will serve engineering students, faculty, and staff, as well as researchers from other disciplines.

Additionally, the company and university have agreed to terms to establish Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology, UW-Madison said. The institute’s main location will be near Foxconn’s manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant, WI, on which Foxconn recently broke ground. The institute will have a secondary location in Madison, the university said.

Economic development officials in Wisconsin have said they expect Foxconn to employ up to 13,000 people at the company’s campus in Mount Pleasant once it’s up and running. Foxconn said it plans to invest $10 billion in the project by 2020. It will receive about $4 billion in tax credits and other economic incentives, provided the company meets pre-determined investment and hiring targets.

UW-Madison and Foxconn’s collaboration to create the institute represents the university’s largest industry research partnership to date, Blank said in a news release.

“The partnership combines the strengths of two global leaders—one of the world’s top high-tech manufacturing companies and one of the world’s top universities,” Blank said in the release.

The institute has the potential to house engineering-focused research on semiconductors, sensors, and robotics, for example, UW-Madison said. It will also encompass projects aimed at advancing research on human health in areas like genomics and medical imaging, the school said.

Foxconn has been buying up office buildings around the state, which the company said it plans to renovate and turn into nodes of an “innovation center network” connecting different parts of Wisconsin. Earlier this year, Foxconn paid nearly $15 million for an office building in downtown Milwaukee that will reportedly serve as its North American headquarters. The company has also purchased buildings in Green Bay and Eau Claire for undisclosed amounts.

UW-Madison didn’t say whether the institute it plans to establish with Foxconn will be connected with the company’s innovation network connecting different areas of Wisconsin.

Blank and Terry Gou, who founded Foxconn in 1974 and continues to lead the company as its chairman, were among the academic and business leaders who took the stage during Monday’s ceremony. Others included Louis Woo, special assistant to Gou; Alan Yeung, Foxconn’s director of U.S. strategic initiatives; Robert Golden, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health; and Howard Bailey, director of UW’s Carbone Cancer Center.

Last fall, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that Foxconn was looking at partnering with the cancer center to use the company’s high-resolution screens and computing technology “to better map radiation therapy, classify tumors, and image cancer inside the body.” The report also said that in July 2017, when Foxconn first announced plans to set up a manufacturing operation in Southeastern Wisconsin, the company was looking for undeveloped sites in and around Madison where it could build a manufacturing facility big enough to employ 650 people.

However, UW-Madison and Foxconn did not end up entering into any official agreement until this week. The company hasn’t made public any plans to establish operations in the Madison area beyond putting a satellite office of the new research institute there.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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