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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the Wisconsin Paper Council (WPC) are launching a yearlong project to develop a strategic framework for the future of Wisconsin’s paper industry.

Headed by UW Oshkosh’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS), the project is one of several awarded funding under WiSys’s Ignite! Program to provide faculty, staff and students across the UW System’s 13 comprehensive universities with opportunities to apply their knowledge to build the state’s economy.

The timing of this project, which emphasizes the roles of talent, innovation and sustainability as keys to the industry’s future, comes at a critical time for the WPC and its membership. Decreasing demand for converted paper products has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic as the industry also adapts to changing workplace needs.

“Wisconsin’s paper and pulp industries have proven particularly resilient throughout the state’s history. They represent both a success story and part of the state’s legacy as they continue to provide vital products and services,” said Jeffrey Sachse, CCRS’s interim director. “The breadth and depth of the industries’ economic footprint also provides substantial opportunities for innovation and growth. This project affords us the chance to gain insight from industry leaders and develop new collaborative strategies.”

Wisconsin Paper Council President Scott Suder said the partnership with UWO offers the opportunity to work on an important workforce development study.

“The paper and forestry industries are key drivers for Wisconsin’s economy and this comprehensive analysis of our business sectors’ workforce development challenges and future needs will be an invaluable resource for both our stakeholders and for policymakers,” Suder said.

The project scope includes a series of comprehensive industry surveys, the convening of industry expert panels, student-directed innovation and sustainability assessments and several stakeholder sessions. In addition, the project scope will continue to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19 by convening both small group and industry-wide virtual listening sessions, which also will engage experts from across UWO.

CCRS is recognized as an important driver of regional economic development through the strategic connection of UWO talent, intelligence and innovation to Wisconsin businesses and organizations.

Ignite Grants, formerly known as Applied Research Grants, encourage researchers to use their expertise and apply their scholarship to support growth in Wisconsin. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of WiSys or the UW System.

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