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Solving for our Future

R&D spending has stagnated in Illinois in recent decades. But the most recent data shows an important uptick in R&D in the food and IT industries. Together, R&D activity at universities, businesses, and federal labs propel Illinois’ innovation ecosystem and economy forward.

Our R&D Science Teams



Artificial Intelligence meets the brain – using AI for deeper insight into brain health.

Our daily experience with the world is multimodal. We see things. We feel textures. We hear noises, smell odors and taste foods — all to shape our understanding of the world. But most data on the human brain is siloed and not connected. Our I-BRAIN Science Team has built a one-of-a-kind data and human brain tissue repository with multiple sources of data integrated into one system, to understand and develop new treatments for human disorders and improve clinical care.

Learn More About I-Brain

Lead PIJeff Loeb, UIC College of Medicine
TeamUIC, UIUC, University of Chicago, IIT, industry partners

CREATE WISDOM: Addressing Wicked Problems in Healthcare

The WISDOM science team will use data from Chicago hospitals to develop artificial intelligence technologies that improve patient outcomes.

The extraordinary team of clinicians, informaticians and engineers from UIC, UIUC and Rush are starting with data from cancer patients from underserved populations — seeking patterns and insights that will change the state of the practice.

Learn More About Create Wisdom

Lead PIKarl Kochendorfer,UIC Hospital & Health Sciences System
TeamUIC, UIUC, Northwestern, Rush, Mayo, DuPage Medical

Trustworthy and Robust AI

The science and technology of building robust and trustworthy AI-based systems will be one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Machines that learn from large amounts of data can mimic human intelligence to a large degree but are inherently fragile. Our research areas include autonomous vehicles and drones, robots in manufacturing and assisted living, robotic surgery, and AI applications in finance that call for privacy, fairness and ease of use.

Lead PIMadhusudan Parthasarathy, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC
TeamUIC, UIUC, University of Chicago, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University
AI Farming

Autonomous Construction, Agriculture and Manufacturing at Scale

This science team’s ambitions are to build an innovation center dedicated to advanced technology in the U.S. manufacturing, construction and agriculture industries.

Application areas include automated construction vehicles, cooperative autonomy for manufacturing, digital autonomous agriculture, additive manufacturing, and supply chain logistics, to name a few.

Lead PIBob Norris, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC

Wastewater Epidemiology

This science team is creating a non-invasive, cost-effective way to examine community spread of COVID-19, by measuring the virus in human fecal matter in wastewater.

Such monitoring, known as wastewater-based epidemiology, should warn of emerging viral hotspots up to a week earlier than traditional tests, and give public health workers valuable time to mobilize.
The program, however, will be important for additional and future public health concerns.

Learn More About Wastewater Epidemiology

Lead PIRachel Poretsky, UIC Biological Sciences
TeamUIC, Northwestern, Argonne National Laboratory
AI Construction

AI for Construction

The construction industry is ripe for transformation: inefficient, unsafe, and unpredictable. But digital technologies are showing promise.

Construction problems expose new challenges for AI, and this science team will look at solutions including image-based 3D reconstruction of interiors, 3D pose estimation, and semi-structured text analysis. Further AI methodologies will provide solutions in finance, insurance, and transportation logistics.

Learn More About AI for Construction

Lead PIMani Golparvar Fard, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC
TeamUIUC, numerous industry partners

Privacy in the Era of Big Data

Today, system designers focus on functionality and performance requirements, often adding security as an afterthought and ignoring privacy altogether.

Many view such privacy concerns as secondary and accepted their violation as a necessary byproduct of security. This science team will combine techniques drawn from cryptography, machine learning, software engineering and trustworthy computing to obtain practical, usable and scalable systems that will provide consumers with the level of privacy that they desire.

Lead PILenore Zuck, UIC Department of Computer Science
AI Farming

Illinois Autonomous Farms

This science team will drive research, education, and outreach for autonomous systems in agriculture.

The ultimate goal is to improve Illinois farmers’ productivity, sustainability and profitability. We will advance AI in three areas: (1) robots to collect data for under-canopy crops, utilizing weeding and spraying robots; (2) urban food garden robots; (3) plant manipulation in berry-nut orchards with low-cost mobile robots and soft manipulators.

Learn More About IL Autonomous Farms

Lead PIGirish Chowdhary, The Grainger College of Engineering and College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES), UIUC
TeamUIUC, University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory

Kidney Wellness Institute

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects approximately 15% of the U.S. population and Medicare costs exceed $120 billion annually.

This science team will develop strategies to improve the health and wellness of CKD patients while realizing tremendous economic impact. Our vision is to optimize the healthcare experience and quality of life (QOL) of individuals with CKD. Technology plays a key role, specifically using VR to increase exercise adherence and nutrition knowledge, and using machine learning to optimize patient-centered fluid management.

Learn More About the Kidney Wellness Institute

Lead PIKen Wilund, UIUC College of Applied Health Sciences
TeamUIC, UIUC, Loyola, University of Calgary, numerous industry partners

Increasing Illinois’ investment in applied R&D

To promote the growth of R&D and innovation, Illinois must grow university-industry R&D collaborations.

Currently, the state ranks 8th for university R&D funded by businesses as well as patents co-assigned to both a university and company.

Illinois ranks 13th in publications co-authored by at least one university and industry researcher.

One of our goals is to move up in these ranks.

Applied R&D in sectors where Illinois already excels. These are research clusters, funded by corporations, government and foundations, that aim to solve complex but practical challenges. DPI is the matchmaker and organizer; building faculty teams and pairing their expertise with funders’ needs.


DPI is a matchmaker and organizer, building research teams and pairing them with funders’ needs.


We then integrate those teams into Chicago’s corporate and tech community.


We build infrastructure for these teams, from lab space to in-kind fundraising support, to give them a greater chance of success.


We help these teams get their ideas to market — either through a license or startup. This creates jobs and grows our economy.

Applied Research

Matching Capabilities to Industries

Farm robots and Prof. Girish Chowdhary’s startup EarthSense

“In a research field off Highway 54 last autumn, corn stalks shimmered in rows 40-feet deep. Girish Chowdhary, an agricultural engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bent to place a small white robot at the edge of a row marked 103. The robot, named TerraSentia, resembled a souped up version of a lawn mower, with all-terrain wheels and a high-resolution camera on each side. …

The robot is designed to generate the most detailed portrait possible of a field, from the size and health of the plants, to the number and quality of ears each corn plant will produce by the end of the season, so that agronomists can breed even better crops in the future.”

Continue reading more in the New York Times