Microsoft Corp. president announces donation worth more than $1.5 million to UW-Milwaukee’s Connected Systems Institute

MILWAUKEE _ Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith pledged a donation worth more than $1.5 million to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Connected Systems Institute Monday afternoon at UWM’s new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center. The announcement was part of Smith’s keynote speech to the IoT Talent Consortium annual meeting, hosted by Rockwell Automation and UWM.

The donation includes $1.25 million in cash, $250,000 worth of Azure cloud computing credits, and $80,000 worth of Surface Hub hardware. UWM Chancellor Mark Mone and Rockwell CEO Blake Moret joined Smith at the event.

“We like to add rocket fuel to rockets that are going places, and this one is,” said Smith, who grew up in Wisconsin.

Microsoft’s gift marks the latest major investment in the Connected Systems Institute, a multidisciplinary statewide collaboration among academia, industry and government. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella holds a master’s degree in computer science from UWM. Generous donations from many other partners, including Rockwell Automation, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., A.O. Smith, ANSYS, Eaton and PTC support the institute’s important work of developing talent and conducting research that solves real-world problems using the industrial internet of things.

“Like Rockwell Automation, Microsoft is demonstrating a commitment to communities, with the goal of expanding human possibility,” Moret said. “Microsoft’s donation to the Connected Systems Institute will further enable students to learn skills in technology that increase productivity.”

Microsoft Azure is a set of cloud services that helps an organization meet its business challenges by bringing together products, services and third-party applications. A Surface Hub is an all-in-one collaboration device and meetings platform built for teamwork.

“In today’s economy, the value of partnerships between universities and industry cannot be overstated,” Mone said. “Microsoft is demonstrating leadership in this space by defining new and innovative ways to enhance the education and research ecosystems at rising-star institutions of higher education, like the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The workforce of the future will be defined by partnerships like the Connected Systems Institute at UWM, where students will be exposed to real-world technological challenges working side-by-side with industry researchers and leading faculty.”

Smith’s keynote speech, titled “Innovation in Wisconsin: Past, Present, and Future,” highlighted the cutting-edge high-tech research ecosystem that UWM has forged with local companies.

“It was the inventions born right here in the Milwaukee area that laid the foundation for the smart buildings and automated factories of modern life,” Smith said. “Wisconsin’s research universities played an important role from the start, so it’s no surprise that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Connected Systems Institute continues to shape our future by building a smarter, more productive and sustainable world.”

The June 24 and 25 IoT Talent Consortium annual meeting brings together academic, industry and government experts who seek to create and grow the workforces required by the internet of things.

For more information, contact Laura L. Hunt,, 414-303-4868, or Howie Magner,, 414-229-6444.

About Brad Smith:
Microsoft President Brad Smith leads a team of legal and corporate affairs professionals in 56 countries. He serves as the company’s chief legal officer and leads work on a wide range of issues involving the intersection between technology and society, including cybersecurity, privacy, ethics and artificial intelligence, human rights, immigration, philanthropy and environmental sustainability.

Smith joined Microsoft in 1993 and was named Microsoft’s general counsel in 2002. He spent the following decade leading work to resolve the company’s antitrust controversies with governments around the world and companies across the tech sector. This past decade, Smith has spearheaded the company’s work to advance privacy protection for Microsoft customers and the rights of DREAMers and other immigrants, including bringing five lawsuits against the US government on these issues. He grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, attended Princeton University, earned his law degree from Columbia University, and studied international law and economics at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2017, Smith announced a $10 million partnership between Microsoft and the NFL’s Green Bay Packers to open an accelerator, venture capital fund, and lab next to Lambeau Field, called TitletownTech, to support digital transformation of businesses in the area.

About UW-Milwaukee’s Connected Systems Institute
To develop new industrial IoT technologies, UWM has launched its Connected Systems Institute (, a multidisciplinary, statewide collaboration between academia and industry. “Connected systems” refers to the management of data streaming on the industrial internet of things to achieve optimization and the next level of manufacturing automation. Partners include Rockwell Automation, Microsoft, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Ansys, Eaton, AO Smith, PTC, the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership. By the end of next year, the institute and its partners will begin building manufacturing testbeds to use in applying new software and strategies to real-life environments.

About the Internet of Things Talent Consortium (IoTTC):
The IoTTC is a unique nonprofit community of human talent experts and practitioners that formed in 2015. It aims to grow the organizations and workforces needed to drive IoT-enabled digital transformation in every sector. Members include a cross-section of academia, corporations and government agencies, including Rockwell Automation, Microsoft, Cisco, General Electric, Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pearson Workforce Readiness, New York Academy of Sciences and workforce management consultant Beeline.

About Rockwell Automation
Rockwell Automation, Inc. (NYSE: ROK), the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information, makes its customers more productive and the world more sustainable. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., Rockwell Automation employs approximately 23,000 people, serving customers in more than 80 countries.