New WEDC Initiative Brings Supercomputing to Small Businesses

One of the missions of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is to provide assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses that may need a helping hand to spur the kind of innovation that will ensure their companies’ success.

That assistance often comes in the form of a grant, tax credit or loan issued directly by the WEDC. But also there are times when WEDC works with a partner to help smaller businesses take the next step. That is just what is happening with a new initiative between WEDC and the Milwaukee Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides companies with access to specialized high-performance computing systems and services.

While the Milwaukee Institute already works with some of Wisconsin’s major corporations and institutions, including Rockwell Automation and the Medical College of Wisconsin, getting access to a high-performance “supercomputer” is something that many smaller businesses can’t work into their budgets. That’s where WEDC stepped in.

The organization, along with Mason Wells, a private equity management firm, are each contributing $250,000 to a one-year public‐private initiative that will provide small- and medium-size companies with a level of technology that otherwise would be beyond their reach.

The funding will be used by the Institute to expand the availability of high-performance computing systems and services for smaller businesses as part of the Institute’s ongoing efforts to promote economic development through technology‐oriented businesses that need such resources to perform complex modeling and simulation studies for new products and services.

The initiative, the first of its kind in the state, is expected to promote high-tech job growth in Wisconsin by accelerating the Institute’s long-term commitment to developing a statewide center of excellence in applied computational science, high-performance computing and mass data storage applications.

The $250,000 from WEDC will provide grants of up to $50,000 per company to access the Institute’s specialized high-capacity computing and storage network known as the MGrid. The $250,000 provided by Mason Wells will be used to enable the Institute’s computational scientists to guide new users in the design, setup and use of research and analysis schemes for areas such as 3-D modeling, pattern analysis, and complex system dynamics forecasting. Grants will be awarded to a minimum of five companies.

“This is great news for companies and organizations that want to begin utilizing these specialized computing services, but otherwise wouldn’t have the resources or necessary training to do so,” said Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “This program—along with other advanced technology efforts supported by WEDC—will have a long-term positive impact on job growth and the state’s overall economy.”

The project has the strong support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who sees a direct link between technology and the state’s economic climate.

“Now—more than ever—it’s crucial that Wisconsin businesses learn to employ advanced technology, including computational science and specialized high-performance computing systems and services, in order to innovate in a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive environment,” Walker said. “Major companies and institutions recognize the value of utilizing high-performance computing and are already working with the Milwaukee Institute. This new program will enable smaller businesses to gain the benefits of access to the institute’s computing network, and will provide them with the training needed to use that network to be spur innovation.”

“We are pleased to partner with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Mason Wells to offer the Institute’s systems and services to assist innovative organizations in creating new or upgrading legacy products and services requiring access to modern modeling, simulation, visualization and analytics capabilities,” said Dr. Jay Bayne, founder and executive director of the Milwaukee Institute. “In the process, we expect to see improvements in the efficiency of engineering, research and development processes and the emergence of a new class of computational and data scientists.”

The project will provide Wisconsin small- and medium-sized businesses, the largest job producers statistically, with a defined and financially viable pathway for access to the M-Grid that is now lacking, as well as marketing and placement scheme to position them to access the benefits of such high-powered data processing, Bayne said.

The Milwaukee Institute will provide the funding to companies through a new Computational Science Challenge Grant program. The deadline to apply for a grant is January 31, 2014 and companies can get more details about the grant at the Institute’s website, or by calling 414.727.6411.
(January 2014)