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National Lab in Hamburg, Germany, and University of Illinois System institute in Chicago to Jointly Work on Entrepreneurship and Tech Commercialization

March 20, 2023 (CHICAGO/HAMBURG) — The Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System, and DESY, a national accelerator lab in Germany, today announced a partnership to advance the commercialization of their research and support the launch of businesses in each city.

DESY, a German equivalent of a federal laboratory in the United States, was founded in 1959. It employs almost 3,000 people, including more than 700 scientists.

The Hamburg, Germany, research center, for which the full name is Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY, also trains more than 800 apprentices and undergraduate and graduate students per year. Like Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago, it is home to a particle accelerator and specializes in photon science and astro-particle physics, the study of the subatomic building blocks of our universe.

In 2026, DESY will open an integrated startup hub, The DESY Innovation Factory, to commercialize technologies built on its basic research and foster open innovation initiatives together with industry, which will be the primary connection point for joint activities with DPI. Spin-offs from DESY are focusing on photonics and laser systems, as well as detector and sensor technologies as well as robotics and life sciences.

Also in 2026, DPI plans to open its new innovation center on the Chicago River south of the Loop to further its three-pronged mission: Training people for high-demand tech jobs, conducting applied research and development; and building businesses upon this research to grow Chicago’s tech ecosystem.

Already, DPI has launched Shield T3, a COVID-19 and wastewater testing business for customers outside the State of Illinois. Those two services are built on a saliva-based COVID test invented at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and research conducted at DPI and the University of Illinois Chicago, respectively. In addition, DPI runs the wastewater surveillance programs for Illinois and Chicago, monitoring levels of COVID-19 and flu A and B in local communities.

“DESY and DPI are on a parallel path and timeline in terms of supporting entrepreneurs and taking academic research from the lab into the real world,” said DPI Executive Director Bill Jackson. “And when you want to get your research out to the entire world, you need to have global partners.”

Arik Willner, CTO at DESY added: “Together with DPI we will provide an advantageous framework for deep-tech startups from infrastructure to an interdisciplinary network for impactful innovation activities to translate scientific insights into successful business models.”

The partnership will include joint technology commercialization by bringing new partners from Germany to DPI and vice versa. For startups, DPI will be an entry point for the American market and DESY for the European market. The organizations will jointly promote each other’s strengths through marketing and events. In addition, the partners will host exchange programs for research faculty.

“With this pact, we link two of the world’s great research institutions and the bright minds at work in both, leveraging the strengths of each as we seek solutions to the major challenges before us,” U of I System President Tim Killeen said. “The agreement is an example of the University of Illinois System at its very best — using our global vision for innovation to build the kind of sustainable economy that we all count on for the future.”

DESY’s Director Helmut Dosch added: “Working together across borders in science and innovation is a part of DESY’s DNA. We are looking forward to this new cooperation and the positive impact of each innovation ecosystem.”