Microsoft President Brad Smith pledged a donation worth more than $1.5 million to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Connected Systems Institute on Monday at UWM’s new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center.
The donation includes $1.25 million in cash, $250,000 worth of Azure cloud computing credits, and $80,000 worth of Surface Hub interactive whiteboards.
“We like to add rocket fuel to rockets that are going places, and this one is,” said Smith, who grew up in Wisconsin.
The announcement was part of Smith’s keynote speech to the IoT Talent Consortium annual meeting, hosted by Rockwell Automation and UWM. Chancellor Mark Mone and Rockwell CEO Blake Moret joined Smith at the event.
“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.”
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.
The institute launched in November 2017 with a $1.7 million investment from Rockwell Automation. Donations from many other partners, including Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., A.O. Smith, ANSYS, Eaton and PTC support the institute’s work to develop talent and conduct 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.”
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.