Marquette University President Michael Lovell says he wants to double research at Marquette over the next five years.

Speaking at Thursday’s WIN-Milwaukee meeting, Lovell highlighted investments the university has made in facilities and programs that foster innovation, including the purchase of 12.5 acres in downtown Milwaukee that will house an athletic research facility. Developed in partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks and an unnamed health care provider, Lovell said the facility will provide a global draw to the university.

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Lovell, a former UW-Milwaukee chancellor, also discussed budget cuts to the UW System, saying they “create challenges for the campuses that are very significant.”

He highlighted the role universities play in nurturing start-ups and fostering economic development through research.

“Universities today are really being called upon to help lead research and the growth of regions,” Lovell said. “There’s not a region in the country that is doing well that doesn’t have a major research university.”

Although he predicted the core function of the UW System will not change, he expressed concerns at the fate of new programs, and the system’s ability to fully participate in programs like The Commons, a collaboration of 23 Milwaukee-area colleges that provides students an opportunity to work with area businesses.

Lovell expressed optimism about UW-Milwaukee’s expansion of collaborative partnerships during his tenure, which ended last year. He pointed to programs like the Student Start-up Challenge and the App Brewery as examples of economic development at the campus.

A research partnership with Johnson Controls even led to the construction of a state-of-the-art clean facility at UW-Milwaukee, Lovell said. He said the program, which generated $35 million in federal grants and led to further collaborations with GE and Rockwell Automation, underscores the positive impact and talent pipelining universities offer businesses.

“Colocation, that’s the magic,” Lovell said. “When you can get people together from multiple organizations… it becomes much greater than one organization could ever produce on their own.”

Advocating efforts to “break down the 90 miles” between Madison and Milwaukee, Lovell said he discussed collaboration between the regions with UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank last year. Until the cities expand their partnership, Lovell said Milwaukee’s combined student population shows great promise.

“If we can tap the potential of 180,000 students, they can help change our city and our region,” Lovell said.

— By Samantha Nash