When you think of where to find innovation in the United States, naturally you gravitate toward places like Silicon Valley and Boston. From our point of view here in Wisconsin, we are right in the heart of innovation, and we are proud of what our companies—from startups to established corporations—are doing, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, the midwestern region contains an abundance of global corporations alongside powerhouse research universities, all involved in an amazing array of technological innovation across multiple industries:
- Statistics from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation show that more than 1,800 biohealth companies in the state generated $3 billion in exports in 2018. The WEDC went on to say that “Wisconsin is addressing global health and sustainability challenges and propelling the world toward better solutions through proven expertise across the full biohealth spectrum.”
- In the tech industry, Wisconsin lies in the middle of the IQ Corridor, a 400-mile path from Chicago to the Twin Cities that contains some of the world’s most exciting intellectual property, according to the Wisconsin Technology Council. The state’s tech sector includes software design, cybersecurity, e-commerce, cloud architecture and artificial intelligence.
- Wisconsin also is strong in manufacturing. The National Association of Manufacturers says that 85% of the state’s exports are manufactured goods, and these exports support 103,000 jobs. That has led to IndustryWeek citing Wisconsin as one of the top 10 states for overall manufacturing jobs.
With these industries in mind, here’s a sampling of innovation taking place here in Wisconsin during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local Wisconsin Companies Have a Global Impact
One such company is Exact Sciences, a leader in advanced cancer diagnostics that generated more than $800 million in revenue in 2019 and conducted 1.68 million Cologuard (colorectal cancer screening) tests. In response to the current health climate, it recently announced that it would repurpose some of its equipment and reconfigure areas of its laboratory space to help scale up Wisconsin’s COVID-19 testing capabilities.
Meanwhile, FluGen’s main focus has been developing a vaccine that can prevent disease caused by all forms of the deadly influenza virus. It has secured $12 million in Series A financing and $30 million from the NIH and Department of Defense. FluGen is now developing and testing a vaccine against COVID-19 called CoroFlu, another example of how Wisconsin’s biohealth companies can innovate in challenging times.
An example of mobile applications is Ionic. Its open-source UI toolkit is used by more than five million developers in more than 200 countries, with business users such as Target, GE, NBC and NASA. Now, developers have begun using Ionic to create multiple apps to track COVID-19 cases in various countries and help educate/alert the public and health officials, showing how the world of tech can adapt.
Wisconsin also is the home of Redox, which provides healthcare systems with a full-service integration platform to securely and efficiently exchange data. The company has raised $48 million since it was founded in 2014, including a $33 million Series C round last year. Redox-powered applications have been helping both healthcare providers and patients during the COVID-19 crisis, such as through virtual waiting rooms, tele-triage and at-home patient monitoring.
A global company with headquarters in Milwaukee, Johnson Controls produces fire, HVAC and security equipment for buildings and made $31.4 billion in revenue in 2018. It has won awards for sustainability, technology leadership, corporate citizenship and environmental leadership. Recently, Johnson Controls shifted focus to deliver life-safety services to hospitals, supermarkets, food processors, pharmacies, data centers, state and local government offices, police stations, fire stations and U.S. military operations during the pandemic.
Foxconn is a multinational electronics manufacturer with a plant in southeastern Wisconsin. Its customers include Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft. Foxconn, too, is adjusting operations to produce ventilators alongside medical device firm Medtronic, with medical and technical personnel from both firms were working assigned to the task.
As you can see, this sampling of companies in Wisconsin’s innovation ecosystem is addressing today’s most pressing issues. Innovation is widely recognized as a vital ingredient that drives economic growth, attracts talent, creates wealth and, as in these cases, protecting our quality of life.