$25 million gift creates unique institute

Posted on 25. Jul, 2014 by in Advanced Manufacturing, Alumni, Economic Impact, Features, Gift Report, Issues, Research

A new trans-disciplinary research institute in the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering will drive technological breakthroughs that will enhance the success of U.S. industries and fuel economic growth in the nation.

Funded with a $25 million commitment from The Grainger Foundation, the Grainger Institute for Engineering will foster new discoveries and build the university’s global reputation as a leader in driving advances that help solve critical societal challenges. “The positive and transformative effects of this investment within the College of Engineering will resonate throughout the state and our nation far into the future, says UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “Through innovation in advanced manufacturing technologies and education of the workforce, the Institute will accelerate the renaissance of the U.S. manufacturing industry and enhance the nation’s economy.”

The Institute will break down the silos of traditional fields of research in favor of a model that cuts across disciplines. “Housed within the College of Engineering, the Grainger Institute for Engineering will act as a catalyst for transformative, collaborative approaches to research and education throughout the university,” says UW-Madison Provost Paul DeLuca. “It will enable the university to educate engineers and scientists for the modern world.”

Group of people standing

Leaders from The Grainger Foundation hosted UW-Madison representatives in June for a formal signing ceremony. From left: John Howard, David Kendall, UW Foundation President Michael Knetter, David Grainger, Chancellor Rebecca Blank (UW-Madison), Dean Ian Robertson (UW-Madison), Gloria Sinclair, John Chapman, and incoming Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf (UW-Madison).

The Grainger Foundation’s commitment will create an endowment for professorships, faculty scholar awards and postdoctoral fellowships, with additional support from UW-Madison, the UW-Madison Vilas Trust, and the College. The commitment will enable the College to attract clusters of top engineering faculty to define new research directions through the Grainger Institute for Engineering. In total, the funding will enable the College to hire 25 new faculty.

“With most of these faculty holding appointments in two departments in the college, they will be positioned to accelerate the move toward more trans-disciplinary education,” says College of Engineering Dean Ian Robertson. “Adapting such an approach to both education and research is essential to our future.”

Researchers in the Institute initially will focus on areas related to materials and manufacturing. “The Grainger Institute for Engineering will advance our global expertise in advanced manufacturing, materials discovery and materials sustainability,” says Robertson. “These areas transcend disciplines across the College of Engineering and the UW-Madison campus and bring together disparate groups to solve common problems. Innovations in these areas will impact areas ranging from energy and consumer goods to healthcare solutions and will allow U.S. companies to bring new products to market more quickly and economically.”

In manufacturing, for example, a process known as additive manufacturing has the potential to save manufacturers money and reduce waste. The process draws on digital models to print 3D components, allowing manufacturers to quickly generate and revise product prototypes, or to cost-effectively mass-produce small quantities of custom components. Manufacturers also can gain a competitive advantage by developing and producing products using new materials with unique properties, or by reducing their reliance on traditional materials made with expensive or rare elements.

While materials and manufacturing are its initial areas of focus, the Grainger Institute for Engineering will act as an incubator, allowing the College of Engineering to continuously launch and nurture new research concepts, and ultimately to “graduate” research centers that become mature and self-sustaining. “The unique, nimble structure of the Institute will allow the College to focus on emerging areas and will serve as the engine that drives future engineering research innovation at UW-Madison,” says Robertson.

About The Grainger Foundation
The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation, located in Lake Forest, Illinois, was established in 1949 by William Wallace Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger, Inc., North America’s leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair, and operating products, with operations in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Since its founding, the Foundation has provided substantive support to a broad range of organizations including museums and educational, medical, and human services institutions. Today, the Foundation is guided by the leadership of David W. Grainger (BSEE ’50, UW-Madison), president and director of the Foundation since 1979.

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