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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, a global leader in scientific discovery and America’s first national laboratory, signed an agreement Wednesday to partner in a new research center led by the University of Illinois System to accelerate the groundbreaking innovation that drives progress and economic growth.

Argonne, the Midwest’s largest national laboratory and home to scientists and engineers from around the world who work together to solve society’s greatest challenges, is the 11th academic partner to share research and educational expertise in support of the growing Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in downtown Chicago.

Based 30 miles from downtown in suburban Lemont, Argonne was born from the Manhattan Project and the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in the 1940s. It has since grown into a multidisciplinary research center renowned for breakthroughs in critical areas at the center of DPI’s focus, including renewable energy, environmental sustainability, supercomputing and cybersecurity.

“This is how you grow jobs, opportunity and prosperity in a state like ours, partnering with world-class institutions like Argonne that call Illinois home,” said Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System. “Its intellectual heft and long, proven record of success will help DPI fuel the pioneering innovation that will move our state, our region and our nation forward.”

DPI is a purpose-driven, collaborative research and education center led by the U of I System. It will bring together hundreds of top researchers and thousands of students who will work with industry and government to solve real-world challenges, fostering innovation that creates new technology, products and businesses.

“Groundbreaking collaborations between academia, industry and government are critical for America’s energy future and economic growth,” said Argonne Director Paul Kearns. “We’re pleased to partner with DPI to provide scientific leadership for national research priorities, strengthen our collaboration at the Chicago Quantum Exchange, and develop the next generation of scientists and engineers to maintain U.S. leadership in STEM.”

Argonne’s honors and achievements include three Nobel Prize winners, and 130 of R&D Magazine’s “R&D 100” awards, regarded globally as the gold standard in discovery and innovation. The lab also has registered more than 750 patents and fostered more than 30 start-up businesses.

Discovery by Argonne researchers includes helping develop the first power-producing nuclear reactors, a reactor installed in the Navy’s first nuclear-powered submarine, one of the first ultrasound images of the human body, complex machines used to clean up contaminated areas, research that helped develop guidelines for safe exposure to radiation at power plants and hospitals, and a pioneering technique to analyze the moon’s surface that was used on the first lunar samples from the Apollo 11 mission. Argonne chemists also co-discovered the elements einsteinium and fermium, elements 99 and 100 in the periodic table.

Earlier this year, Argonne announced that it is constructing the world’s most powerful supercomputer, with applications that include improving the power grid, generating climate simulations down to the neighborhood level and personalizing cancer treatments.

Argonne, managed and operated by the University of Chicago on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, is home to 1,600 scientists and engineers, 300 postdoctoral students, 600 graduate and undergraduate employees and about 800 visiting scientists. The lab also has nearly 8,000 facility users a year as it works on research in concert with universities, industry and other national labs.

Under the agreement signed Wednesday, Argonne joins DPI as its 11th academic partner. Others are inaugural partners Northwestern University and the University of Chicago; the three U of I System universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield; the Illinois Institute of Technology; and international partners Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, MS Ramaiah Medical College in India, and Cardiff University in Wales.

DPI is the flagship of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), another initiative led by the U of I System. The network of 15 hubs, which includes every public university, will connect with DPI and each other to spread economic growth across the state through research and innovation.