Data Science Brewing in Milwaukee

An ecosystem around Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence is developing in Milwaukee

As the field of Data Science continues to heat up, the business and education communities in Milwaukee are taking big steps forward to establish and cultivate the research and development needed to support a healthy data science ecosystem.

Businesses have begun to understand the power and potential of the mountains of data they have acquired over the years and continue to build. Demand for experts in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), business intelligence and big data has become more pressing. Many visionary leaders are now establishing and developing AI and ML as a key part of their strategy moving forward, with a perspective that waiting to adopt may quickly leave them behind.

Responding to the demand for these new roles in data science, universities in our area are also stepping up to train and equip graduates to be successful in this rapidly evolving field.

2019 should prove to be a big year for data science here in the Milwaukee area. Several business and university partnerships are under way that really kick off in earnest this year.

Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) - Diercks Computer Science Hall

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In October of 2017, MSOE announced a $34 million donation from alumnus Dwight Diercks and his wife Dian to build a new state of the art Computational Science Hall in the center of campus. Diercks is a 1990 graduate of MSOE and currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at NVIDIA, a global leader in computer graphics and AI.

As a graduate of MSOE, I've followed along since the announcement in 2017 and participated in the ground breaking ceremony in 2018. Governor Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barret were on hand to highlight the impact on Wisconsin and Milwaukee. Dwight Diercks gave a key note speech that included some fond memories of his time at MSOE and insight as to how the university had an impact on his life and prepared him for his career.

Diercks Hall will include a state of the art data center with a GPU-accelerated NVIDIA super computer. GPU processing is used in many machine learning and AI applications in healthcare, robotics, autonomous vehicles and more. Students, faculty and staff, and businesses will be invited to collaborate with MSOE using this new resource.

As I stopped by campus recently, it was notable how quickly the new Diercks Hall is going up. Construction is nearing completion and MSOE expects the facility to be open for classes this fall. The new Computational Science program, with a focus on applied data science, kicks off this fall as well. I'm confident the faculty at MSOE will make great use of the new space and resources to inspire the next generation of students.

MSOE expects the new facility and programs to position the university at the educational forefront of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute - Partnership with UWM and Marquette

In June of 2018, Northwestern Mutual (NM), Marquette University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) announced a partnership to invest $40 million to create the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute. Northwestern Mutual and its Foundation will contribute $15 million to support data science research projects, data science focused faculty and development of expanded curriculum to help build a workforce to meet their growing business needs and challenges. Marquette and UWM will each invest more than $12 million in expanding their data science programs as well.

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The first classes in the NM Data Science Institute will begin this fall as part of the 2019-2020 school year. Northwestern Mutual will also provide classroom and office space in their Cream City Labs innovation hub that opened in fall of 2018 at their downtown Milwaukee campus.

NM, UWM, and Marquette forsee collaboration as a way to speed up the development of data science capabilities at each of their organizations. This type of partnership promises a broader focus that will lift our region's technical capability and expertise.

Northwestern Mutual was also included in a recent announcement from MSOE about further investing in Diercks Hall including local companies like Pieper Power and Rexnord as well.

Exciting times in Data Science in Milwaukee

It doesn't take an algorithm to discern that a lot is underfoot in our area in the Data Science space. It's exciting to see the investment in education to position Milwaukee as a leader in Machine Learning and AI. It's also rewarding to see recognition and investment from leaders at both a key local company like Northwestern Mutual and a large Silicon Valley company like NVIDIA.

I'm confident we'll see innovation in the space brewed up right here in our own back yard.

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