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Wisconsin universities, technical colleges, and independent secondary education institutions will join with Foxconn Technology Group in a statewide effort to share and encourage technologies that develop smart, connected cities.

Alan Yeung, U.S. Strategic Initiatives Director for Foxconn, announced the initiative Thursday that will, in part, be a competition. It will encourage discussion, research, and recommendations on new ideas for smart connected cities and systems to better serve Wisconsin.

Read more about Foxconn project.

Students to compete for $1 million in prizes

To launch this fall, the “Smart City, Smart Future” initiative will feature a competition that will provide winners with prizes, financial awards and technical support, in addition to creating a platform to attract investments to bring their ideas to fruition. The competition will look for innovative approaches to harness technology that enhances the quality of life and working environments. It also hopes to inspire attractive streetscapes, transportation networks, and living spaces while promoting sustainable economic growth.

“Wisconsin has excellent undergraduate and post-graduate talent,” said Yeung. “We want to work with our partners in higher education to develop various programs such as (this) to foster, energize, and retain talent in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin’s talented workforce and strong work ethic is one of the reasons that attracted Foxconn to invest in the state. As a long-term partner … we look forward to doing our part to nurture talent in strategic sectors that will support the state’s transformation into a global high-tech hub.”

Program aims to tap into Wisconsin’s talent

In outlining the details of the program Thursday morning announcement at UW-Parkside, Yeung was joined by leaders from the UW System, the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities–the three key partners in the initiative. Those three organizations represent a talent pipeline of more than 350,000 students, explained Yeung

Appearing on stage for the announcement and giving brief remarks were: UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford; Gateway Technical College president and chief executive, Bryan Albrecht; Marquette University president, Michael Lovell; and secretary and chief executive of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Mark R. Hogan.

More details about the competition will be announced at the Smart Futures Summit at UW-Parkside on Aug. 7. Yeung did announce, however, that $1 million in prizes, awards and financial support will be a part of the three-year competition. “We want to tap into the thousands of young talented (students in Wisconsin) and we want to retain that talent in Wisconsin,” Yeung told the near-capacity crowd in the Frances Bedford Concert Hall.

The Foxconn executive also was given a round of applause when he said the competition was “not just for science majors.” Adding: “We want liberal arts majors, too.” He noted that the competition format will welcome written documents, video, photography or any platform that can express an idea. “We want business plans AND social venture plans. The competition will look for ways to harness technology and enhance quality of life,” said Yeung.

“The Smart City, Smart Future initiative is an innovative program that will bring together students, faculty, entrepreneurs and industry leaders to devise unique approaches that will help shape Wisconsin’s future,” said WEDC’s Hogan.

The Foxconn campus in Racine County will eventually include multiple buildings totaling 22 million square feet on a 1,000-acre parcel. The project is expected to generate $31 million per year in new property tax revenue and employ up to 13,000 people.

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.