Officials Celebrate Grand Opening Of Wisconsin Institutes For Discovery

Gov. Jim Doyle, along with university leaders and supporters, celebrated on Thursday the grand opening of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Doyle first proposed the Institutes for Discovery in 2004 as part of an overall statewide strategy to cement Wisconsin’s status as a national leader in biotechnology, health sciences and stem cell research and stimulate the economy.

The building located at 330 N. Orchard St. officially opened to the public at noon Thursday.

The facility was designed and built around the idea of collaboration between scientists.

“It’s very exciting. There’s going to be breakthroughs from unanticipated combinations of people from many different backgrounds,” said Sang Kim, executive director of the Morgridge Institute for Discovery.

Kim will be a pharmaceutical researcher in this building. He said that what will come out of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery will change the world of scientific research.

“It’s really an architectural marvel to facilitate collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and bring people from many different corners of the scientific universe and have them collaborate on different challenges,” Kim said.

The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery houses three entities under one roof — UW-Madison’s public Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the private nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research, and a main floor Town Center designed to foster interactions among scientists, students, entrepreneurs and businesses that will engage the public in science.

Officials said the collaborative vision of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery makes the facility one-of-a-kind in the world. They said the lab and research space is cutting edge and scientists can mingle and share ideas.

The building was also designed to be inviting for everyone.

“We want to make science accessible, exciting and relevant so that all the younger generations who come in here know that science plays a big role in life, in improving human health, in discovering things,” said Rupa Shevde, director of Outreach Experiences.

Public involvement is another important value behind the facility’s objective, which is why so many people are excited that this public-private venture is finally a reality.

“This corner which has been such a center of the University of Wisconsin campus over so many generations now will be a center for the world for generations to come,” Doyle said.

John and Tashia Morgridge, who are a major force behind the project, were on hand for the opening ceremony.

The Morgridges, who graduated from UW-Madison in 1955, donated $50 million to build the facility and begin a public-private research partnership. They also helped conceptualize the multi-disciplinary research area and the private involvement.

The Morgridges said they have very high hopes for what can be done at the facility.

“Now comes the real test, as to whether or not this really creates a kind of margin of excellence in terms of stimulating not only the researchers in this building but the researchers all over this campus,” said John Morgridge. “Because certainly we would hope that it has that kind of leverage but time will tell. Certainly we’re off to a strong start.”

The 300,000-square-foot building on the 1300 block of University Avenue on the UW-Madison campus is the first research facility on campus designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Certification for “green” building practices.

But not everyone on Thursday was happy with the grand opening. A group of protesters interrupted the opening ceremonies twice.

The group was protesting the privatization of food service at the institute. The new research institute is public-private entity, and the protesters said they want to bring better benefits to the employees at the institute.

“We want those people to be public employees, to be paid a fair wage (and) to have some benefits to go with it as well. And with this happening here, this is just the beginning, and we feel that if they continue to privatize certain buildings on campus because that’s how it seems to be going now, that they will try and privatize jobs as well,” said Al Schueller, a UW employee.

The protesters also ended up delayed the start of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery events Thursday afternoon.