A University of Wisconsin research center will receive one million dollars over the next two years in funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce for their proposed projects.
The Center for Dairy Research was one of seven winners of the third annual i6 Challenge, a competition for federal funding between major universities across the United States, CDR spokesperson Bekah Gillespie said.
According to Gillespie, in order for universities to be considered, they must demonstrate how they can use their research to meet a proposed challenge. Gillespie said this year the challenge was to show how the research a program was doing could contribute to economic development.
CDR Director John Lucey said the challenge was an effort by President Barack Obama’s administration to create more jobs across the nation.
“They [the Obama administration] want to commercialize the world-class research that the world-class universities in the U.S. are doing.”
According to Lucey, CDR was singled out to receive funding due to the prominence of the Wisconsin dairy industry.
“The Wisconsin dairy industry is a serious economic factor in the state,” Lucey said. “The dairy industry employs a lot of people, and putting the kinds of research [CDR] does into action will help accelerate the creation of more jobs.”
Gillespie added the center’s connections within the dairy industry also influenced their selection, as creating partnerships was emphasized by the i6 challenge.
UW will be allocated the grant within two years, and the grant will receive matching support by Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, a UW statement said.
Lucey added the award is also a reminder of the importance of the dairy industry in terms of job creation. Jobs in the dairy industry cannot be outsourced because they must stay where the cows are, Lucey said.
Lucey finds the award to be more than a financial grant, but rather a factor in improving the economy.
The purpose of CDR, according to Gillespie, is to support the Wisconsin and U.S. dairy industries through research, support and technical training. The three key concepts they outlined for the competition reflected that, Gillespie said.
According to Lucey, to apply for the grant, research centers are required to qualify as a “Proof of Concept Center.” To prove the concepts of their innovations, the researchers came forward with proposals for innovation that could be used for economic development, Lucey said.
The first concept proposed was to create healthier dairy-based options in Wisconsin school lunches, Lucey said, adding the center also aspires to make the U.S. a world-wide exporter of cheese, particularly to Asian countries.
The third concept was to help the dairy industry utilize the value of byproducts, such as whey.
“It is more than a research grant,” Lucey said. “It is about promoting innovation and the commercialization of research that has been done so it can be used to fuel the economy.”