Large companies that work on a national and even
international scale often travel in different business orbits than emerging
firms, even if those companies are operating in the same general technology or
commercial universe.

A young company developing a new way to help
existing devices better communicate with one another in a supply chain, for
example, may not know that a much larger company is looking for exactly that
kind of solution to improve its business efficiency and flow.

Helping those “orbits” come together
in ways that foster connections between the large and small planets in
Wisconsin’s business solar system is the goal of the Wisconsin Tech Summit, an
event set for April 7 at the GE Healthcare Institute in Waukesha.

Produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council and
partners that include some well-known Milwaukee-area companies, the Tech Summit
will provide an organized way for young companies and corporate giants to meet
and explore likely business relationships around technology needs and

Read this commentary in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here. 

Those relationships might include research and
development partnerships, direct investments, strategic partnerships as vendors
or sales outlets, even merger and acquisition. With major companies on a
never-ending hunt for ideas and the revenue those innovations produce, young
companies are often a likely source.

Gone are the days when larger companies only
worried about what other large companies were doing. Today, they’re also
keeping an eye on young companies that may creatively disrupt their business or
industry with a new product or service.

The Tech Summit will put together some of those
larger companies with emerging firms in a “speed-dating” setting that
will allow a series of brief meetings in which both sides learn whether there’s
enough chemistry to keep talking.

Participating major companies thus far are
American Family Insurance, AT&T, Aurora Healthcare, Faith Technologies, GE
Healthcare, HP Enterprise Services, IBM, Johnson Controls Inc., Kraft Foods, Plexus,
Rockwell Automation, Runzheimer International and Total Administrative Services

The event co-chairs are Sujeet Chand, senior
vice president and chief technology officer at Rockwell Automation, and Munesh
Makhija, vice president for global research at GE Healthcare.

Major companies will be able to hear from
emerging firms with innovative products or services tied to areas such as
“big data,” connected devices and data analytics in sectors ranging
from health care to information systems, and from power electronics to

Emerging companies can
still apply to take part at A selection process involving major
companies and the Tech Council will follow. Selected companies may meet with
more than one company, depending on interest.

A broader goal of the conference is to fuel two
important sectors of the Wisconsin economy — its major firms, which are often
world leaders, and its early stage sector, which is a source of innovation but
often disconnected from the right markets and potential users of those ideas.

“In some parts of the country, especially
among large and small companies that rely on information technology, there are
well-established ways to connect. Those ecosystems have matured to the point
where those kinds of conversation are easy to have,” said Jay Bayne,
director of The Milwaukee Institute. “The Tech Summit is a way to help
more such conversations take place here.”

“Speed dating” meetings on April 7
will run about 15 minutes each. Other features of the daylong event will

■ “Office Hours” meetings and
presentations, which will be available to all participants during those times
in which they are not scheduled for individual meetings.

■ Addresses by major speakers who will bring
perspectives that will be helpful for major companies as well as emerging
firms. They include Mary Ann Wright of Johnson Controls, University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell and David Krakauer, director of the
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

■ An opening panel discussion that will help set
the stage by affording major companies an opportunity to talk generally about
their goals, needs and emerging markets.

The success of the event may well be judged on
how many of the “speed dates” turn into lasting relationships, either
through corporate investments or other strategic partnerships. It may not be
love at first sight in every, or any, case, but all good relationships need a