By Heather White, Faculty Director, Dairy Innovation Hub
The Dairy Innovation Hub is now well into its second year and is already having impacts across the three participating campuses. Of the $7.8M in annual funding, 52 percent goes to UW-Madison and 24 percent each to UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls to build research capacity, recruit top talent, support innovative research, and engage in outreach and instruction.
The Hub encompasses all aspects of dairy, from the farm to the consumer, as represented by the four priority areas: enhancing human health and nutrition, ensuring animal health and welfare, stewarding land and water resources, and growing farm businesses and communities.
In addition to supporting established dairy researchers, the Hub has generated interest from faculty and staff at each campus who are new to dairy, which represents new collaborators, fresh perspectives and new innovation. With continued interest and enthusiasm toward dairy, our ability to do innovative research continues to grow.
A few short years ago, the Hub was one of the top recommendations from the Dairy Task Force 2.0. In order to take the Hub from concept to reality, stakeholders like Dairy Business Association, Professional Dairy Producers, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, DATCP and other key champions leveraged their legislative and agency relationships to help UW-System secure the Hub’s funding.
Along with the deans, and faculty from the three campuses, members of these organizations have formed our advisory council. The council works tirelessly to ensure the Hub remains true to the original vision and focus in each priority area and has helped execute the early phases of the Hub.
In May of 2019, Senator Marklein and Representative Tranel introduced legislation to fund the Hub. The following months included approval of a spending plan set to guide the Hub’s efforts and funding became available to campuses in late 2019. Groundwork was also laid during these months that aligned the spending plans with mechanisms to solicit and review proposals which meant the first funding decisions were made a few short months later. Despite campus closures due to COVID-19, we have met all of our benchmarks and goals for the first fiscal year, as reported in the first annual report.
A few notable highlights from the 2019-2020 annual report include:
- More than 50 funded proposals across three universities and four priority areas
- $5.1 million allocated for new dairy faculty, staff, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers for the 2019-2021 biennial state budget cycle
- Collaborative and synergistic initiatives across three campuses
- Engaged advisory council and three active steering committees
This winter and spring, we will focus on recruiting and hiring at least eight Hub-funded faculty members across all three campuses and in each priority area. These are new positions and represent exciting areas of research and teaching that complement current expertise. In a time when many campuses are unable to hire faculty due to budget cuts or hiring freezes, the Hub is enabling the three campuses to recruit the best and brightest in dairy to build research and teaching programs.
An aspect of the Hub that we can’t over-emphasize is the collaboration between each campus. We have encouraged and fostered collaboration not only across the leadership teams, but across faculty and facilities and we already have examples of researchers working together across campuses on projects that are only possible with collaboration. The deans at each campus have worked together to support this collaborative approach.
As we reflect on the Hub’s first year, and execute our second-year plans, it is encouraging to see the progress that can be achieved when enthusiastic participants come together. Gathering input from external stakeholders, working across the three campuses, and building new collaborative relationships have all contributed to making the vision for the Hub a reality.
It’s important for farmers, processors, allied industries and consumers to engage with the Hub. We strive to maintain open and transparent communication about our efforts, funded by the State of Wisconsin. To learn more about the Hub and to join our mailing list, visit dairyinnovationhub.wisc.edu
Heather White is an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. Her research focuses on the health and nutrition of dairy cows during the transition period. In 2019, White was named faculty director of the Dairy Innovation Hub.This article was posted in Uncategorized.