Aug 28, 2018

Foxconn pledges $100 Million for UW-Madison Research Partnership


Foxconn Technology Group has pledged to invest $100 million in UW-Madison to further engineering research and create a new tech facility on the university’s campus.

The deal, unveiled at a joint news conference yesterday morning in Madison, includes plans to set up the Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology, in addition to a new research facility that would feature labs and student learning spaces for UW-Madison’s College of Engineering.

Foxconn Chairman and CEO Terry Gou said the partnership would “enable groundbreaking research and innovation in applied science.”

“It is my hope that this gift … will help promote cooperations, innovations and entrepreneurship across Wisconsin,” he said.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the $100 million agreement marks the university’s largest industry research partnership, as well as one of the largest gifts in UW’s history.

The university is also planning to raise an additional $100 million as part of its $3.2 billion “All Ways Forward” fundraising campaign over the next two years, she said.

Blank told reporters after she and Gou signed the declaration of intent that there’s no clear timeline for establishing the new research facility on campus.

But the chancellor said the idea is Foxconn and the university will each cover around half of the total cost for the new building. If any of the $100 million from the company remains, she said, the university would need to consider how to “most fruitfully” use it for program expansion.

The agreement marks the latest in a series of announcements this year from the Taiwanese company. Foxconn has announced plans to open its North American headquarters in Milwaukee, as well as innovation centers in Eau Claire and Green Bay.

Blank said the agreement yesterday didn’t require approval from the Board of Regents, but regents would need to sign off before UW-Madison and Foxconn sign a legal contract, which she said will happen “at some point.”

Meanwhile, the Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology is planned to have its main location at its campus in Racine County, in addition to “an off-campus presence in Madison,” per a joint statement from UW and Foxconn yesterday. That center will focus on research in medical science, computer science and materials science, as well as other fields.

Asked about what the physical plans are for the institute, Foxconn executive Louis Woo told reporters that officials are “still working out the details.”

He also declined to comment on whether Foxconn is planning to announce partnerships with any other UW System schools or colleges in the future.

Woo also countered recent reports that Foxconn is downsizing its commitment in Wisconsin, saying they represent a “misinterpretation of our phased approach to such a humongous project.”

“Our original commitment to the state of Wisconsin was 13,000 meaningful and creative jobs,” he told reporters after the agreement was signed. “That has not changed. Up to $10 billion investment — that has not changed.”

Woo’s comments come after Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz last week questioned the Foxconn’s investment in Wisconsin after the company earlier this summer pulled back in its initial plans for the facility.

The state’s contract with the company says it will build a factory that creates display panels from large sheets of thin glass, called a Generation 10.5 LCD panel. But the company has acknowledged it will first build a plant producing smaller screens, known as Generation 6. It also said it planned to build a larger factory in a second phase.