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University of Illinois campus

The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign announced a $50 million partnership with Foxconn last week. 

Foxconn pledged $50 million to Illinois’ flagship university just weeks after UW-Madison reported receiving less than 1% of the company’s $100 million commitment in the first year of their five-year agreement.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced last week that Foxconn Interconnect Technologies — a subsidiary of the company that is also building an electronics factory in southeastern Wisconsin — will contribute $50 million in matching funds over 10 years for a technology center to be housed in the Grainger College of Engineering. Researchers from the company and university will work together on projects developing technology for use in transportation, manufacturing, medicine and homes.

University of Illinois engineering spokesman Bill Bell declined to provide the Wisconsin State Journal with a copy of the university’s agreement with Foxconn, but said it includes the $50 million dollar amount and a payment schedule.

That differs from UW-Madison’s master agreement, which lacks a specific dollar figure or payment plan despite public statements referencing $100 million. The agreement broadly states that Foxconn Technology Group “intends to make a substantial investment in research and other activities” with UW-Madison.

UW-Madison has so far received $700,000 from Foxconn for a sponsored engineering research project, UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said last month. Because of changes in the company’s executive leadership and shifting business priorities, he said there had been “no significant progress in discussions” since the $100 million announcement was made in August 2018.

Foxconn responded last month with a statement reiterating its commitment to engineering and research at UW-Madison.

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“We don’t have any comment on the situation in Wisconsin, but this is a very different relationship,” Bell said.

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As of December, the Foxconn parent company owned 77% of Foxconn Interconnect Technologies shares, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

But Bell said Foxconn Interconnect Technology is an independent organization with its own board and CEO, Sidney Lu, who is an alumnus of the university.

The university has a strong existing research relationship with the Foxconn subsidiary, he said. The company already has a team working at the university’s research park and has fostered relationships with individual engineering faculty members.

Bell also said the college has a “great, decades-long” relationship with Lu. He is a major university donor, contributing more than $20 million to a renovation of the mechanical engineering building on campus.

“We are completely confident in the agreement and that (Foxconn Interconnect Technology) will be an excellent research and development partner,” Bell said.

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