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Building a More Inclusive Tech Community

Through DPI’s Pritzker Tech Talent Lab, DPI is becoming a hive of technology activity, a place where companies, researchers and students can access smart people, advanced equipment and funding to turn their ideas into products and businesses.

On WTTW: Using Wastewater to Detect COVID-19

DPI’s Wastewater Epidemiology project to use wastewater test for COVID-19 was featured in a recent edition of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. DPI Research Scientist Charlie Catlett and UIC’s Rachel Poretsky described the project. “When there’s incomplete data, or holes in the data, that’s when wastewater data is really useful,” Poretsky told WTTW. “At each stage of the pandemic there were citywide and nationwide testing challenges. There were often months without tests, or the wrong tests or extremely long waits to get appointments.”

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Our Commitment to Diversity

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion are a core foundation of our programs — not an afterthought

In 2019, the U of I system’s computer science, computer engineering, and data science programs graduated 3,476 people. How many of these graduates do you think were students of color? Just 59, or 1.6%, were Black. And just 183, or 5%, were Hispanic.

We must do better. DPI’s tech talent development programs are going to help fix this.


DPI will intentionally design programs to address key challenges & friction points that have historically disadvantaged underrepresented groups in tech.


DPI believes in collaboration, which is why we have a growing international network of partners.


DPI will systematically support a learner’s journey with wraparound services to ensure success.


Internally, DPI is building a representative workforce and will conduct business with a diverse supplier base.

We’re Building Research Teams and Supplying Them With New Funding

Our research clusters are built on industries where Illinois already excels.

  • Food and agriculture;
  • Health and wellness;
  • Water, environment and climate;
  • Insurance and financial services;
  • Transportation and logistics.

DPI has seeded teams within these research clusters with more than $1 million in funding. Teams are led by a University of Illinois faculty member and include scientists from across DPI’s partner universities and the private sector.


We’re Preparing Promising and Diverse Talent

We are identifying these students in high school and staying with them through to their first job out of college. We also are upskilling current workers for in-demand jobs in data and analytics.

10 Million Invested by Pritzker Foundation

In December 2020, The Pritzker Foundation announced it is giving $10 million over the next five years to The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) to support and develop promising and more diverse tech talent in Illinois.

The funding will establish the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs at DPI, which will help Illinois workers better adapt to a challenging and quickly changing economy, and help thousands of women and people of color secure high-paying tech jobs.

The Pritzker Tech Talent Labs will Launch with 2 Programs:

  • A high school to career pathway, which includes additional instruction in high-demand skills, such as coding; internship placement; mentorship; additional guidance counseling; and last-mile financial aid and emergency financial support.
  • Upskilling of existing workers, which includes executive education in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and 5G; working with corporations to develop their own training programs; and a master’s degree in tech leadership.

With this funding support, DPI has named Omowale Casselle to be the inaugural Pritzker Director of Tech Talent Labs. Casselle joins DPI with a deep background in engineering and technology entrepreneurship.By 2029, the goal is for the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs to help 7,000 people annually secure jobs, including more than 3,000 women, Blacks or Hispanics.

The Pritzker Foundation is led by Tom Pritzker, Nick Pritzker, Gigi Pritzker Pucker, and Penny Pritzker.

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Covid-19 has worsened our already significant income inequality, accelerated tech adoption, and made the need for upskilling even more acute.

“We simply must do more to help our workers, particularly women and people of color, acquire the skills needed to adapt and thrive given the accelerating impact of automation and digitization. This important new initiative at DPI will help build a more inclusive economy by increasing opportunity for the diverse talent in our region.”

Penny Pritzkerformer U.S. Secretary of Commerce and trustee of the Pritzker Foundation

Invest with the Most Ambitious People and Companies the Region Has to Offer

Our partners include leading universities on the other side of the globe; the state’s most successful entrepreneurs; and big corporations, which turn to DPI to accelerate their R&D efforts. Here are just a few of our partners.

Full Partners List & Info

The 78

Chicago’s Newest, Most Innovative Neighborhood

The Discovery Partners Institute is a founding member of The 78, Chicago’s next great and 78th neighborhood.

A ‘once-in-a-generation’ development, The 78 is going to become a hive of activity and the downtown Chicago outpost for some of the world’s top coders and scientists.

Join Us There

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The most popular way to do things is not always the best way to do things.

“The situation here, especially at UofI, is that a lot of the students opt for going straight to the West Coast, and that’s where they seek success. But City Scholars has continually proven to me that is not necessarily the best option, and it certainly isn’t the only option.”

Azriel AlvaradoCity Scholars alumnus

Why does The Discovery Partners Institute exist?

Illinois is a top producer nationally of computer science and data science graduates. Yet, the state still faces a significant shortage of talent needed for its economy to grow. We are in a global war for the best and the brightest; DPI is the state’s offensive.

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