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DPI Mission

The Discovery Partners Institute’s ambition is to make Chicago an unrivaled and inclusive tech economy over the next decade. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: tech talent development, applied R&D, and business building.

DPI’s foundational purpose is to create economic value for Illinois by building its tech economy preeminence. It is focused on delivering in three areas—tech talent development, applied tech research and development, and business building and scaling. DPI is creating opportunities for students to enter the tech workforce, as well as for workers to switch to higher paying jobs and careers. Emphasis is placed on creating opportunities for groups who are underrepresented in the tech workforce. DPI, through its Pritzker Tech Talent Labs, aims to train 7,000 students each year, of which 40% will be women, LatinX, or Black.

We are on a path to scale diverse talent development. DPI is building a substantial applied research base. Chicago and Illinois are home not only to top public and private universities, but also to leading companies and organizations, including the Chicago Board of Trade, Walgreens, Caterpillar, John Deere, Archer Daniels Midland, Allstate, State Farm, Boeing, United Airlines, and others. The state has a natural advantage in sectors represented by these companies, and DPI will build a research base at the intersection of the research institutions’ capabilities and the advantaged sectors.

The research base is generating innovations that DPI is helping transform into businesses and economic activity. DPI is identifying opportunities, forming and supporting start-ups, and pursuing commercialization. Illinois has funded new facilities at “The 78” (scheduled to open in 2025) and DPI is working to create an Innovation Hub anchored around its new facility.

DPI Does Three Things

DPI focuses on three things: Tech talent development, applied research and development and business building. These key tenants are explained in more detail below. DPI will supplement these three areas of focus with a set of policy initiatives to influence governmental levers to facilitate Chicago’s and Illinois’s economic growth in tech. 

Pritzker Tech Talent Labs icon

Workforce Education
• Immersion
• Workforce Development
• Graduate Programs
• Lifelong Learning
• Career Pathways

Community Education
• K-12 Programming
• Teacher Training
• Community College Tech
• Career Pathways


How this is applied: Pritzker Tech Talent Labs through its Workforce Education and Community Education units. Programs include K-12 programming for students and training for teachers, community college tech development, immersion programs for college students, tech workforce development programs, and graduate programs. A High-School-to-Career Pathways program, led by the Pritzker Tech Talent Labs, will provide the connective tissue across these efforts and grow the pool of underrepresented tech talent.

DPI mission: Applied R&D

System Wide Sectors
• Food and Agriculture
• Health and Wellness
• Finance and Insurance
• Transportation/Logistics
• Water Environment/Climate
• Information Technology
• Infrastructure
• Digital Government

Digital Capabilities
• AI/Machine Learning
• Big Data
• Cyber and Privacy
• Distributed Systems
• Quantum Computing


How this is applied: Applied R&D by deploying five key new economy capabilities (AI/Machine Learning, Big Data, Cyber and Privacy, Distributed Systems, and Quantum Computing) across eight sectors, which include Food and Agriculture, Health and Wellness, Finance and Insurance, Transportation/Logistics, Water Environment/Climate, Information Technology, Infrastructure, and Digital Government.

DPI mission: Business building

• Identifying Opportunities for
• Business Plan Development
• Mentoring
• Business Building Support

78 Ecosystem
• Help Facilitate the Ecosystem
• Build out The 78

How this is applied: Business Building by a Ventures unit to translate innovation into economic growth and keep startups in Illinois. It will create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem by developing an Innovation Hub at The 78, funded by state investment.


DPI believes in this model of partnerships, creating a world of shared prosperity through collaborative action to transform lives in communities around the world where we live and work.

Water, climate impact, food, human health, social networks, new energy, socially responsible technology, and equity are not abstract issues, but needs for millions of people around the world to improve their lives. DPI sits at the heart of a series of partnerships, joining forces with institutions across the globe to help tackle our world’s more pressing human issues through technologies.

DPI is supported by international collaborators who themselves sustain networks of partners. DPI believes in this model of partnerships, creating a world of shared prosperity through collaborative action to transform lives in communities around the world where we live and work.

A global network of partners located in Illinois and across three continents are coming together through their and DPI’s efforts. DPI has partnerships with twelve leading higher education and research institutions, including Argonne National Laboratory, Cardiff University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Illinois Institute of Technology, MS Ramaiah College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Northwestern University, Tel Aviv University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Springfield, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Their participation in DPI programs enriches their quality by bringing in leading experts from multiple universities to work together with DPI.

Activities of this network of partners are coordinated through DPI’s Partners Council, which consists of senior leaders of all partner organizations. The Council defines priorities for joint programs, reviews progress of on-going joint programs, and evaluates new joint programs under development.

Assessing last year, looking forward to next year

DPI’s initial efforts with its partners have largely focused on joint research, but much more is needed, including educational programs, global internships, and joint business building. We are excited by our partners’ commitment and engagement. We are better together. Next year’s work will focus on four key elements.

Progress This Year

Science teams: DPI partners actively participated in the proposals for the 2020 Science Teams.
Out of the nine Science Teams funded in 2020, five teams had faculty from DPI partners outside the University of Illinois System.

Improved networking: DPI has significantly improved networking with its partners during the year. Partners are also invited to provide input in development of applied research and education programs. As a result of these efforts, we expect a significant increase in participation of partners in DPI during 2021.

Goals for Next Year

1. Expand partners’ network. DPI will invite several leading international universities to join it. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (the National Autonomous University of Mexico) is among the universities joining DPI in 2021.

2. Launch postdoctoral fellowship program. This new program will enable postdocs from partner institutions to spend up to two years working with a Science Team at DPI.

3. Launch summer immersion program for international partners. This program will be designed mainly for students from international partners. Students will spend two weeks at DPI learning about the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Chicago and experiencing the rich Chicago culture.

4. Increase partners’ participation in DPI Science Teams. DPI is working towards increasing the number of partners and the number of faculty from each partner participating in the 2021 Science Teams.