At UW-Madison, innovation is part of our DNA. We have a long history of economic innovation that includes our status as a land grant institution, the creation of WARF as a steward of campus-based research into the marketplace, and the development of University Research Park to nurture economic and technological developments. Over the last 10-15 years, UW-Madison’s revenue growth has substantially lagged behind peer institutions in the Big Ten and other elite public universities, many of which compete with us for students and federal research funding. While several strategic initiatives have helped close this gap, we have not been able to catch up fast enough and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need to pursue new revenue solutions beyond increased state government support. The time is now for UW-Madison to pursue new innovative revenue strategies that will drive the next era of growth, development, and discovery.
Revenue Innovations Study Group
In August 2019, Chancellor Blank and Vice Chancellor for Finance & Administration Laurent Heller appointed the Revenue Innovations Study Group (RISG) to provide recommendations for innovating revenue growth in support of the University’s academic and research mission. These recommendations would generate a long-term endowment, develop other non-monetary assets, and cultivate immediate and recurring income streams. The group met five times in 2019 and focused its brainstorming on new revenue innovation ideas that could be accomplished at the institutional level (as opposed to creating new demands for schools and colleges), that would support other university initiatives, and that would complement City of Madison development agendas.
RISG elevated recommendations to pursue strategies in real estate, auxiliary and asset optimization, and corporate and industry engagement. These recommendations and the related research and process were submitted in a report in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community. Increased demands on leadership’s time and attention have slowed the release of the RISG report to campus. However, it is important to note that RISG’s recommendations are not final decisions and no movement has been made to implement these strategies, other than to continue the work of the Office of Business Engagement and address the fact that UW-Madison does not have a real estate strategy.
Overview of Recommended Strategies
UW-Madison has partnered with U3 Advisors, a nationally recognized real estate consulting firm with extensive practice in higher education, to pursue a real estate strategy that would generate new revenue streams via campus (re)development processes. U3 found that the Madison market and UW-Madison land holdings offer substantial long-term opportunities.
It is important to note that our partnership with U3 signals our interest in this recommendation but does not indicate a decision to move forward.
Auxiliary & Asset Optimization
UW-Madison is investigating the development of a campus-wide auxiliary optimization strategy similar to peer higher education institutions. This multi-phase strategy focuses on creating long-term value for campus while improving overall operations and addressing sustainability goals, including Carbon Zero objectives. The University is currently preparing an RFP for a strategy partner with experience in asset optimization and process improvement to serve as an advisor during the next phase of exploration.
Corporate & Industry Engagement
UW-Madison and the Office of Business Engagement (OBE) have made progress in developing and expanding a campus-wide corporate engagement strategy, inclusive of industry-sponsored research, talent recruitment, professional development, incubation, sponsorship, and other shared goals. OBE will be a critical pillar in growing industry-sponsored research and amplifyiing the campus’s role as a critical economic engine for the state of Wisconsin.
The Revenue Innovations Study Group developed a set of principles and objectives to guide the strategies and tactics associated with this initiative.
- Generate substantial new streams of revenue to support the university’s mission.
- Recognize the university’s history, as a public land-grant institution, of placing value on the medium- to long term versus the short-term.
- Align with the UW-Madison Strategic Framework (2020-2025) while supporting the university’s mission related to teaching, research, and service.
- Support the university’s agenda to enhance diversity, equity, inclusion, healthy communities, as well as our obligations to sovereign Native Nations in the state now known as Wisconsin.
- Factor in and respect principles of shared governance, which gives representation to academic staff, university staff, faculty, and students, all who take part in making significant decisions concerning the operation of the university.
- Enhance the student learning and growth experiences on and off campus.
- Protect the overall wages and benefits of employees associated with any campus unit or program linked to revenue innovation.
- Trial potentially scalable innovations in new technologies and technology transfer, performance and operations, campus design, transaction structuring and procurement, partnership structures, governance, and regulation.
- Improve the accessibility, livability, sustainability, and quality of the campus environment, and the city-region more generally.
- Support and build positive relations and ties with the community, the nonprofit sector, the business sector, and the public sector in the city-region, the state, the country, and the rest of the world.
Share Your Ideas
Do you have an idea about how our university can generate revenue to support our core mission? Do you have thoughts on the Revenue Innovations Study Group’s report or our next steps for this initiative? Please share your perspective at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or reach out to:
Director, Strategic Initiatives
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Finance & Administration
University of Wisconsin-Madison