Brian Thompson

President, UWM Research Foundation
Director, Lubar Entrepreneurship Center


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Mr. Thompson joined the UWM Foundation in 2006 to broaden the Foundation’s role in support of research and innovation and to help launch the UWM Research Foundation. He leads efforts by the UWM Research Foundation to bridge between the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the private sector through programs that include catalyst grants and intellectual property management as well as fostering corporate partnerships, spinout companies and student entrepreneurship.

Mr. Thompson is also Director of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center at UWM. He is Co-PI on the Milwaukee I-Corps Site sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and helps lead the program which helps university based innovators explore markets for their technology through lean launch and the customer discovery process.  He teaches new ventures as an adjunct instructor in UWM’s College of Engineering and Applied Science and the Lubar School of Business.

Prior to joining the UWM Foundation, Mr. Thompson was Managing Director for TechStar, a Milwaukee-based organization that assists in launching high-tech companies where he helped launch companies in biomedical imaging, medical devices and therapeutics. He also led TechStar’s efforts to identify regional biotech strengths and organized the Biomedical Technology Alliance, an alliance among Milwaukee institutions to foster research collaboration.

Mr. Thompson was previously part of the corporate new ventures group at Hughes Electronics where he worked with early stage companies in consumer electronics, broadband services and entertainment. His technology background includes managing software development projects and designing and launching communications satellites as a system engineer at Hughes Space and Communications.

Mr. Thompson served on the board of the Wisconsin Technology Council and was active in fostering entrepreneurship in the Milwaukee. Mr. Thompson previously served on the boards of start-up companies, MatriLab and NovaScan. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from UCLA.

Mr. Thompson leads Shorewood School District Faculty through "Lean Launchpad" methodology.
Mr. Thompson leads Shorewood School District Faculty through "Lean Launchpad" methodology.
Zahra Ermoian (left, Senior -Business) mentored by Mr. Thompson on her Collaborative Coffee Shop startup idea.
Zahra Ermoian (left, Senior -Business) mentored by Mr. Thompson on her Collaborative Coffee Shop startup idea.
Mr. Thompson leads a recent cohort of Milwaukee NSF I-Corps teams through the "No or No-Go" decision making process.
Mr. Thompson leads a recent cohort of Milwaukee NSF I-Corps teams through the "No or No-Go" decision making process.

Jessica Silvaggi, PhD

Vice President


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Dr. Jessica Silvaggi was appointed as the Vice President in July 2021, where she manages all aspects of the technology transfer process for UWM innovations. She joined the UWMRF team in 2009 as Technology Licensing Associate, where she established the initial technology marketing program, played a major role in the evaluation of UWM intellectual property for patentability and commercialization, and aided in the drafting of licensing agreements.  In summer 2011 she continued to lead marketing and commercialization efforts as the Licensing Manager for UWMRF, and in fall of 2015 she assumed further managerial responsibilities including the entire patent portfolio and licensing negotiations as the Senior Licensing Manager. In 2018 she was appointed as Director of Technology Commercialization.

Dr. Silvaggi continues to grow the technology transfer program at UWMRF and aims to develop more industry partnerships to bring exciting new UWM inventions to market. She also supports UWM faculty and students through teaching them the basics of intellectual property and encourages entrepreneurship and the formation of new startups in Milwaukee. In 2020 she helped to recruit a group of executive mentors, UWM ENGAGE, who can use their industry and entrepreneurial experience to mentor new budding startups, help to vet technologies, and aid in building the commercialization and licensing network. She also manages the UWMRF Bridge Grant, a gap fund, with a matching grant from the WEDC capital catalyst program, which provides funding to UWMRF startups to reach key milestones in their business.

Dr. Silvaggi received a B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of Connecticut, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Harvard University studying the model genetic organism Bacillus subtilis and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute studying the role of antioxidants in the protection of the brain from Parkinson’s disease. In October 2014 Jessica became a certified licensing professional. She is also a co-chair of the Wisconsin chapter of the Licensing Executives Society and serves on the board of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

In her free time Jessica is a is a self-proclaimed health and fitness enthusiast and nerd. She is constantly learning new biohacking tricks through her favorite podcasters and joins her husband in tending to their home grown veggies, herbs, and fruits. She loves to unwind on the weekend with family (including her great Dane and English mastiff) and friends enjoying home cooked meals, fun drinks, and laughs by the fire pit.

Dr. Silvaggi (right) participated in the Milwaukee I-Corps Program with UWM assistant athletic trainer, Chad Henneberry.

Brian Walsh

Senior Technology Commercialization Manager


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Brian Walsh joined the UWM Research Foundation team in September of 2022. In his role as Senior Technology Commercialization Manager, he encourages and evaluates invention disclosures from UWM faculty, staff and students, collaborates in developing plans for protecting intellectual property, and engages with inventors and businesses to execute licensing deals to bring promising UWM technologies to market. Brian is also involved with corporate partnering efforts, supporting faculty-based startup companies, and implementing UWMRF Catalyst Grant and Bridge Grant programs.

Previously, Brian was Business Development and Technology Commercialization Consultant at the Wisconsin Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC), where he provided guidance to Wisconsin entrepreneurs on navigating the Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for accessing funds to research and develop early-stage technologies with commercial potential. At CTC, he also managed pre-accelerator and investor readiness programs for startups.

Brian’s technology transfer background also includes a position with WiSys Technology Foundation, where he focused on commercializing inventions from UW System comprehensive campuses in Green Bay, Oshkosh and Stevens Point. In addition, he served in the US Peace Corps as Biotechnology Commercialization Specialist for a nationally funded research center in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Brian also has 15 years of first-hand experience acquiring, turning around, and successfully operating a business that manufactured and marketed equipment and kits for molecular biology research and education. In the early days of his career, he held various management, marketing, and product development positions in Wisconsin life science companies.

Brian earned a B.S. in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an M.B.A. in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

When not at work, Brian has developed a nerdy enthusiasm for landscape design with a mission to sneak native plants into the yards of everyone he knows. He also enjoys biking for both recreation and transportation, and activities in or on the water – swimming, kayaking, pontooning, or just floating.

Erin Puro

Technology Commercialization Manager


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Erin Puro joined the Research Foundation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in May of 2018 as a Technology Transfer Associate. Her focus is on intellectual property management activities which includes identification and assessment of intellectual property, management of patent prosecution and marketing and licensing technologies. She also helps with the creation of business and market research plans to gain support for promising technologies in industry.

Erin received her B.S. in 2005 in Ocean Engineering from Texas A&M University. She went on to work for Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., LLC, as a Production Engineer all over the U.S. coasts. In 2009 she transferred to headquarters based in Oak Brook, IL to work as a production estimator and helped estimate and bid projects worldwide for several years until August 2017. Her other specialties were researching new equipment potential and historical data analysis.

In December 2021 Erin adopted some new roles, such as, reviewing and drafting communications, creating and editing presentations, facilitating mailing projects, managing grant projects, coordinating Board Meetings, maintaining the UWMRF website, coordinating grant programs and acting as liaison between UWMRF and campus on graphic design projects.

In her free time Erin continues her jack-of-all trades mentality, constantly researching new ideas for her urban farmstead, tending to her family’s many animals and gardens. Erin volunteers in her community, specifically as a leader in both Girls Scouts and 4H. Erin also enjoys biking and playing hockey and volleyball weekly with her husband. Erin is pretty much ready to try anything and enjoys the journeys!

Dena Foster

Marketing Coordinator

Dena joined the UWMRF part-time to aid in marketing, social media, program administration, and special events.

After Ms. Foster’s graduation from Angelo State University with a bachelor’s degree in history and English, she earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2005 from Concordia University Wisconsin. In her full-time professional role as an instructor, she has lead teams, coached staff members, coordinated weekly newsletters, and is the go-to for troubleshooting individual and systemic issues with programs utilized within her district. She holds monthly training sessions for grade-level groups of educators all while teaching a full course load.

Outside of school, Ms. Foster enjoys spending time with her children, and all of their pets. She loves to watch different sporting events and spending as much time outside as possible. Ms. Foster personally, loves to go swimming, drink hot tea and read great literature.

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