State Predicted to Benefit from UWM’s New Connected Systems Institute

With support from Rockwell Automation, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Microsoft, Wisconsin’s first institute devoted to the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) is now on the horizon. The new, multidisciplinary Connected Systems Institute (CSI) will be located at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and its resources will be available statewide.

“Connected systems – or the Internet of things – is a technological evolution that is infiltrating every facet of our lives, and it has powerful implications for all industrial sectors,” said UWM’s Chancellor Mark Mone. “I believe this institute will be a game-changer for businesses in southeastern Wisconsin and the entire state.”

What is the IIoT and why does it matter?

The IIoT represents what many consider to be the world’s next industrial revolution. Given the growing capability of everyday objects to send and receive data, it is important that Wisconsin companies are equipped to tap the latest IoT technology in order to meet the evolving demands of increasingly technical advanced manufacturing jobs, says Adel Nasiri, associate dean for research at UWM’S College of Engineering & Applied Science. Nasiri spearheaded the planning phase for the institute.

“The penetration of cyber-physical systems into the supply chain holds tremendous promise for increasing efficiency, productivity and safety,” Nasiri says. “But there’s currently a gap between industry, on one hand, and research and education on the other. CSI will serve as a central point where industry representatives and scholars can collaborate on how to best use IIoT technologies.”

Where will CSI be located? What will it look like?

CSI will build on existing collaborations between UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science and its Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business, along with other academic units at UWM and other UW System universities.

Physically, CSI will be initially housed in 3,000 square feet of UWM’s Golda Meir Library. Expansion options include up to 10,000 square feet in a highly visible, central location on campus.

When fully operational, CSI will house state-of-the-art lab facilities that will allow participating companies the opportunity to test end-to-end production solutions, from suppliers to customers.

Who can use CSI’s resources?

The institute is structured to allow access to Wisconsin’s for-profit and not-for-profit entities of various sizes.

Small and mid-sized businesses will be able to access CSI through fee-based user agreements.

Large corporate and academic users can become members. CSI membership includes the use of the institute’s facilities and equipment, participation in pre-competitive research, the ability to conduct company-specific research, educational opportunities, and conference attendance. Membership costs range from $200,000 for academic participants (plus annual fees) to $2.5 million multi-year sponsorships for founding members.

Ground-floor planners and financial supporters

Planning for CSI began in January 2016 when UWM representatives met with a leadership team at Microsoft. The company’s CEO is a UWM alumnus—Satya Nadella, ’90, MS Computer Science.

Back in Wisconsin, the multidisciplinary, statewide consortium that worked together to further CSI included representatives from Rockwell Automation, A.O. Smith, Eaton Corporation, Johnson Controls, UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-Stout.

A $136,000 planning grant from Rockwell Automation allowed UWM researchers to study first-hand the leading IoT industry practices in Germany, China, Taiwan, Singapore and the United States. This planning phase was completed in August.

In September, Rockwell Automation committed an additional $1.7 million to the institute.

To ensure that businesses throughout Wisconsin have access to CSI experts and resources, WEDC announced its support: $900,000 to cover renovation and equipment cost for CSI’s facility on UWM’s campus.

Most recently, Microsoft agreed to provide technical support and software for research and educational components.

Will CSI offer academic opportunities?

CSI will provide undergraduate, graduate, professional, and executive education, research and programs. In this way, it will develop talent, expertise and solutions to lead companies to greater productivity.

Academic opportunities will start in spring 2018 with courses in an Executive Education Program. An interdisciplinary master’s program in Connected Systems is scheduled to begin in 2019.

How do I get more information?

Contact Adel Nasiri, Associate Dean for Research, at or 414-229-4955.

The announcement of Microsoft’s support came during a visit to Microsoft’s Redmond, WA headquarters by (L-R): Michael Cook, Director, University Partnership Program and Global Business Development at Rockwell Automation; John Dyck, Director, Software Business Development, Rockwell Automation; Kelly Armstrong, Director Sector Strategy Development, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; Adel Nasiri, Associate Dean of Research; Patricia Borger, Vice Chancellor, Development and Alumni Relations; and Atish Sinha, Director, Center for Technology Innovation, Lubar School of Business. Not pictured: John Boyland, Co-Chair, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Department.