Economy-building initiative now includes all of the state’s public universities
The UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford joined the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a group of hubs across the state that aims to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development, on May 15. IIN now has 15 hubs, including all of Illinois’ public universities, and spans the entire state.
“As part of the Illinois Innovation Network, the regional medical campus in Rockford can form collaborations and partnerships that will help us further our mission of education, research and service for health,” says Alex Stagnaro-Green, dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford. “These collaborations have potential to not only make an impact in the Rockford area, but throughout the state and, in some cases, throughout the nation and the world.”
Led by the University of Illinois System, IIN launched last August with its first hubs at the three U of I System institutions and a fourth at the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in downtown Chicago. Northern Illinois University joined IIN in September and Peoria, which is home to a regional academic medical center, joined in December.
Hubs that officially joined upon signing memorandums of understanding will be located at Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, the UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Western Illinois University.
IIN hubs will harness the intellectual strengths of universities and their communities, working in collaboration with DPI to foster research innovation that drives progress and economic growth. DPI, a purpose-driven, collaborative research center led by the U of I System in downtown Chicago, will ultimately be home to thousands of students and over 100 top researchers. They will work with IIN hubs and with academic, business and tech partners around the world on breakthrough discoveries to spark innovation, economic growth and prosperity.
Hubs will be able to participate in DPI programming and collaborations, while DPI researchers and students will be able to partner with the hubs for educational, research and outreach activities.
“These new hubs fulfill the guiding vision of the Illinois Innovation Network, spreading the power of innovation to every corner of our state through partnerships with every one of our state’s public universities and other important regional partners,” said Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System. “The growing network will bring together the very best minds to address our most pressing challenges, forging breakthrough solutions that will drive new waves of progress and prosperity for all of Illinois and beyond.”
The network of hubs now includes every city in Illinois with a public university presence, and each hub has recruited multiple public and private partners from its region to develop programming with both local and statewide impact.
Work at each hub will seek to grow its local and regional economy through education and innovation pinned to the academic strengths of their host university, such as clean energy, healthcare, manufacturing, entrepreneurship and food supplies. They also will work with DPI and their sister IIN hubs to identify opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing.
All of the hubs are in line for startup funding from the $500 million in capital funds that were approved for DPI and IIN last year by the Illinois legislature, if the funding is re-appropriated in this year’s budget. Each hub has submitted a proposal detailing their plans to leverage and augment current programs and resources to fulfill the mission of IIN.
“This is an incredibly exciting day as IIN grows to include 15 partners across the state,” said Ed Seidel, the U of I’s vice president for economic development and innovation and part of the team that developed IIN and DPI. “I have been very encouraged by the willingness of all the state’s public universities to join forces through IIN, and I am confident that we can utilize our diverse strengths to grow Illinois’ economy and workforce. We look forward to starting some research, educational and innovation activities this fall – including some events at the Discovery Partners Institute, a common IIN hub that all of the IIN members can utilize – as we continue to build partnerships with companies, communities and organizations throughout the state.”x Sta
Concepts for New IIN Hubs
IIN hubs will develop activities in research, education, workforce development and innovation that enhance their regions’ economy and workforce. Hubs will partner with local stakeholders, other hubs, and national and international partners. Specific areas of focus planned for each hub are:
Chicago State University
Chicago State University will create the Center for Solutions of Urban Populations, an incubator for pioneering ideas and transformative change. The center will include the physical renovation of 50,000 square feet of space and establishing programmatic, research, outreach and entrepreneurial activities to address some of the most challenging issues in the Chicago region. The center will address issues such as health and healthcare disparities, violence reduction and conflict resolution, pathways for success for challenged youth and ex-offenders, urban farming, entrepreneurship training in an urban setting, effective law enforcement practices in an urban setting, and food delivery and consumption in challenged neighborhoods.
Eastern Illinois University
Eastern Illinois University, in partnership with Lake Land College and community partners, will create the East-Central Illinois Hub to provide new economic opportunities through university-community relationships. The hub will include an expansion of the existing Center for Clean Energy and Research Education on the EIU campus and will promote the overall sustainability of critical social and natural systems. The hub will address issues of environment, economic development, entrepreneurship, visualization of community-based assets and infrastructure assessments, rural social systems and community sustainability.
Governors State University
Governors State University will establish a Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator in University Park, Illinois. The center will provide faculty consulting to businesses and startups in Chicago’s southland region, as well as employee training and management development programs to assist in the creation of new businesses and the creation and retention of jobs. Building on the university’s existing partnerships with industry and non-profit organizations in the region, the center will help drive both local and regional economic development, including underserved communities in the region.
Illinois State University
Illinois State University plans to create the first concerted, large‐scale effort in McLean County to support and develop a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth. This initiative will engage K‐12, community college, university and community partners in an educational center and startup incubator to support the development and growth of new companies that will, in turn, grow the regional economy.
Northeastern Illinois University
Northeastern Illinois University has created three sites for the Business Growth and Innovation Center. They will include a location close to the university’s main campus, adjacent to one of the largest concentrations of immigrants and refugees in the city; another site on the Carruthers Center campus located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, with strong ties to African-American communities; and a third location at its El Centro campus in the Avondale neighborhood, with a growing Latinx population. The goal of the hub is to support these three underserved Chicago communities by providing economic development opportunities to help solve socio-economic, social, health and community challenges.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Southern Illinois University will establish the Illinois Food, Entrepreneurship, Research, and Manufacturing Hub to solve challenges in food, nutrition, agriculture and health through interdisciplinary research and education. The hub will also provide infrastructure focused on developing agricultural value-added products that will promote and support successful entrepreneurial activities. The goals will be accomplished in a new space dedicated to finding new ways to use Illinois agricultural products and deploy them in the marketplace. The proposed hub will facilitate new economic and entrepreneurial opportunities, and development of value-added products, such as food, beverages and medicine.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville proposed the creation of a new Center for Sustainable Communities and Entrepreneurship, which would expand research capacity and infrastructure to drive economic growth in southwestern Illinois. The center would focus on critical areas such as health, the environment, food and water supplies, education, and workforce training. The center also would house the Metropolitan Accelerator Research Square, a business and engineering accelerator to facilitate technology transfer and capture a greater share of the growing St. Louis startup economy for Illinois.
UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford
The University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford will create the Illinois Rural Hub to spur economic development by addressing workforce shortages in healthcare professions, which continue to plague economic growth in the U.S., particularly in rural areas. The Rockford campus is a leader in rural education for medical, pharmacy and nursing students, with a “grow- our-own” model of pipeline development to increase the number of health professionals practicing in rural areas.
Western Illinois University
Western Illinois University seeks to create the new Center for Manufacturing and Entrepreneurial Excellence to advance economic development in the Quad Cities region and rural communities statewide. The center will include the Quad Cities Innovation Center and the Community Innovation Center. The Quad Cities center will drive innovation, workforce development and economic growth in the region’s manufacturing, defense and agriculture sectors by advancing manufacturing needs in robotics, virtual reality and big data. The Community Innovation Center will use data analytics, visualization and artificial intelligence at the community level across Illinois to improve economies, communities and overall quality of life in rural Illinois.
The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with nearly 86,000 students, about 25,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 22,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.