University Economic Development Association


Smart Cities-Smart Futures: Building a Roadmap to a Future Where There Are No Roads

Award Category: Innovation + Talent
Project Site: Smart Cities-Smart Futures: Building a Roadmap to a Future Where There Are No Roads
Submitted By: University of Wisconsin System
Contact: David Brukardt, Director, Interim Vice President of Corporate Relations and Economic Engagement, 608.262.3905


This case study highlights the introduction to Wisconsin of global manufacturer Foxconn and describes the company’s desire to work closely with higher education, including the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Taken together, these entities represent a talent pipeline of more than 500,000 students. In 2018, Foxconn formalized its commitment to build a productive working relationship with this rich source of innovation and entrepreneurship through the introduction of its three-year, $1.0 million “Smart Cities-Smart Futures” initiative—in effect crowdsourcing the best and brightest ideas.

The development and implementation of this unique initiative represents a collaboration encompassing public and private college and university systems, state government, and the business community in an expansive, Triple Helix collaboration. This study provides a review of the Foxconn “Smart Cities-Smart Futures” structure, process, early results, and lessons learned. It is significant due to the size of the initiative’s scope: The collaboration of major statewide partners in the academic, industry and governmental sectors and the range of collaborations involved. Importantly, all of the award money will go to higher education—to students, staff, and faculty—for creative and innovative ways to build strong, smart futures.

Summary of performance results to-date: Through the initial phases of the three-year initiative, Foxconn has attracted 321 “Smart Cities” entries from higher education and anticipates awarding nearly $200,000 in funding, putting the program on track to distribute one-third of the company’s $1.0 million commitment within its first year.