Wisconsin colleges turn in 300-plus submissions to Foxconn 'Smart Cities' competition
- Taiwanese electronics maker Foxconn received more than 300 submissions from faculty, staff and students at Wisconsin colleges and universities for its Smart Cities-Smart Futures competition, which solicited ideas for technological advancements in areas such as urban planning, energy efficiency and quality of work and life, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
- Foxconn is planting a flag in the state with a $10 billion manufacturing campus underway and partnerships with the University of Wisconsin System, including at campuses in Milwaukee and Madison. The state wooed the tech company with an unprecedented $3 billion tax credit.
- The Foxconn competition is a partnership with the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Wisconsin Technical College System.
Wisconsin has a lot riding on its partnership with Foxconn, struck by its outgoing Gov. Scott Walker in 2017. The massive $3 billion subsidy is meant as an exchange for a $10 billion manufacturing plant that would generate 13,000 local jobs. In June, the company officially designated a building it bought in Milwaukee as its North American headquarters.
But reports say the subsidy has since grown while Foxconn's expected commitment has gone down, and that the infrastructure needed to accommodate the factory will further increase taxpayers' expense. Taken together, the Foxconn project is expected to cost the state $4.5 billion.
Finding 13,000 workers is also expected to be a challenge given the state's low unemployment rate, which has hovered around 3% for the past six months. These workforce needs were credited in part as a driver for Foxconn's $100 million gift to the UW-Madison, announced in August. UW-Madison must match that amount in order to be assured of the full gift, according to a university representative.
Through the agreement, the university and Foxconn will create an interdisciplinary research initiative to be based near the company's planned manufacturing campus in Racine — about 100 miles away from Madison. The Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology will give Foxconn access to potential employees and research support.
Foxconn has also set up a semester-long study abroad program with UW-Milwaukee for engineering students to work for the company in Taiwan, the State Journal reported. Other collaborations within the UW System include cancer research and the development of smart medical devices and systems.
Private funds like those supplied by Foxconn are gaining notice in public higher education as the flow of state dollars dwindles. In Wisconsin, state spending per-student dropped 22.8% from 2008 to 2018 when adjusted for inflation, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The national average was a decline of 16% for the period.
- Wisconsin State Journal Foxconn's 'smart cities' competition drew 325 submissions from Wisconsin colleges
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