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The Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a group of hubs across the state that aims to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development, announced the addition of nine new members today. IIN now has 15 hubs, including all of Illinois’ public universities and spans the entire state.

Led by the University of Illinois System, IIN launched last August with its first hubs at the three U of I System institutions and a fourth at the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in downtown Chicago. Northern Illinois University joined IIN in September and Peoria, which is home to a regional academic medical center, joined in December.

Hubs that officially joined today upon signing memorandums of understanding will be located at Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Rockford (on the U of I regional medical campus), Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Western Illinois University.

IIN hubs will harness the intellectual strengths of universities and their communities, working in collaboration with DPI to foster research innovation that drives progress and economic growth. DPI, a purpose-driven, collaborative research center led by the U of I System in downtown Chicago, will ultimately be home to thousands of students and over 100 top researchers. They will work with IIN hubs and with academic, business and tech partners around the world on breakthrough discoveries to spark innovation, economic growth and prosperity.

Hubs will be able to participate in DPI programming and collaborations, while DPI researchers and students will be able to partner with the hubs for educational, research and outreach activities.

“These new hubs fulfill the guiding vision of the Illinois Innovation Network, spreading the power of innovation to every corner of our state through partnerships with every one of our state’s public universities and other important regional partners,” said Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System. “The growing network will bring together the very best minds to address our most pressing challenges, forging breakthrough solutions that will drive new waves of progress and prosperity for all of Illinois and beyond.”

The network of hubs now includes every city in Illinois with a public university presence, and each hub has recruited multiple public and private partners from its region to develop programming with both local and statewide impact.

“It is very exciting to see how our state’s public universities are working together through the Illinois Innovation Network, and how they are putting innovation at the forefront of their agenda,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “We have so much potential if we just work together, and today’s announcement shows me that our universities are committed to that. They are our state’s key pillars of innovation and talent production, and I look forward to seeing the even greater impact they can have on Illinois’ economy through the IIN.”

Work at each hub will seek to grow its local and regional economy through education and innovation pinned to the academic strengths of their host university, such as clean energy, healthcare, manufacturing, entrepreneurship and food supplies. They also will work with DPI and their sister IIN hubs to identify opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing.

All of the hubs are in line for startup funding from the $500 million in capital funds that were approved for DPI and IIN last year by the Illinois legislature, if the funding is re-appropriated in this year’s budget. Each hub has submitted a proposal detailing their plans to leverage and augment current programs and resources to fulfill the mission of IIN.

“This is an incredibly exciting day as IIN grows to include 15 partners across the state,” said Ed Seidel, the U of I’s vice president for economic development and innovation and part of the team that developed IIN and DPI. “I have been very encouraged by the willingness of all the state’s public universities to join forces through IIN, and I am confident that we can utilize our diverse strengths to grow Illinois’ economy and workforce. We look forward to starting some research, educational and innovation activities this fall – including some events at the Discovery Partners Institute, a common IIN hub that all of the IIN members can utilize – as we continue to build partnerships with companies, communities and organizations throughout the state.”

IIN Hub Concepts

IIN hubs will develop activities in research, education, workforce development and innovation that enhance their regions’ economy and workforce. Hubs will partner with local stakeholders, other hubs, and national and international partners. Specific areas of focus planned for each hub are:

Chicago State University
Chicago State University will create the Center for Solutions of Urban Populations, an incubator for pioneering ideas and transformative change. The center will include the physical renovation of 50,000 square feet of space and establishing programmatic, research, outreach and entrepreneurial activities to address some of the most challenging issues in the Chicago region. The center will address issues such as health and healthcare disparities, violence reduction and conflict resolution, pathways for success for challenged youth and ex-offenders, urban farming, entrepreneurship training in an urban setting, effective law enforcement practices in an urban setting, and food delivery and consumption in challenged neighborhoods.

Eastern Illinois University
Eastern Illinois University, in partnership with Lake Land College and community partners, will create the East-Central Illinois Hub to provide new economic opportunities through university-community relationships. The hub will include an expansion of the existing Center for Clean Energy and Research Education on the EIU campus and will promote the overall sustainability of critical social and natural systems. The hub will address issues of environment, economic development, entrepreneurship, visualization of community-based assets and infrastructure assessments, rural social systems and community sustainability.

Governors State University
Governors State University will establish a Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator in University Park, Illinois. The center will provide faculty consulting to businesses and startups in Chicago’s southland region, as well as employee training and management development programs to assist in the creation of new businesses and the creation and retention of jobs. Building on the university’s existing partnerships with industry and non-profit organizations in the region, the center will help drive both local and regional economic development, including underserved communities in the region.

Illinois State University
Illinois State University plans to create the first concerted, large‐scale effort in McLean County to support and develop a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth. This initiative will engage K‐12, community college, university and community partners in an educational center and startup incubator to support the development and growth of new companies that will, in turn, grow the regional economy.

Northeastern Illinois University
Northeastern Illinois University will create three sites for the Business Growth and Innovation Center. They will include a location close to the university’s main campus, adjacent to one of the largest concentrations of immigrants and refugees in the city; another site on the Carruthers Center campus located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, with strong ties to African-American communities; and a third location at its El Centro campus in the Avondale neighborhood, with a growing Latinx population. The goal of the hub is to support these three underserved Chicago communities by providing resources to help solve socio-economic, social, health and community challenges.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Southern Illinois University will establish the Illinois Food, Entrepreneurship, Research, and Manufacturing Hub to solve challenges in food, nutrition, agriculture and health through interdisciplinary research and education. The hub will also provide infrastructure focused on developing agricultural value-added products that will promote and support successful entrepreneurial activities. The goals will be accomplished in a new space dedicated to finding new ways to use Illinois agricultural products and deploy them in the marketplace. The proposed hub will facilitate new economic and entrepreneurial opportunities, and development of value-added products, such as food, beverages and medicine.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will create the Center for Sustainable Communities and Entrepreneurship, which will expand research capacity and infrastructure to drive economic growth in southwestern Illinois. The center will focus on critical areas such as health, the environment, food and water supplies, education, and workforce training. The center will also house the Metropolitan Accelerator Research Square, a business and engineering accelerator to facilitate technology transfer and capture a greater share of the growing St. Louis startup economy for Illinois.

U of I regional medical campus, Rockford
The U of I regional medical campus in Rockford will create the Illinois Rural Hub to spur economic development by addressing workforce shortages in healthcare professions, which continue to plague economic growth in the U.S., particularly in rural areas. The Rockford campus is a leader in rural education for medical, pharmacy and nursing students, with a “grow our own” model of pipeline development to increase the number of health professionals practicing in rural areas.

Western Illinois University
Western Illinois University seeks to create the new Center for Manufacturing and Entrepreneurial Excellence to advance economic development in the Quad Cities region and rural communities statewide. The center will include the Quad Cities Innovation Center and the Community Innovation Center. The Quad Cities center will drive innovation, workforce development and economic growth in the region’s manufacturing, defense and agriculture sectors by advancing manufacturing needs in robotics, virtual reality and big data. The Community Innovation Center will use data analytics, visualization and artificial intelligence at the community level across Illinois to improve economies, communities and overall quality of life in rural Illinois.

What They’re Saying

Zaldwaynaka Scott, president of Chicago State University
“Chicago State University’s participation in the Illinois Innovation Network is vital to increasing access to cutting-edge technology and research, and cultivating a diverse community of entrepreneurs and urban-led startups. The IIN collaborative complements our strategic plan to leverage partnerships that will prepare scholars and fulfill the workforce demands of our regional community and corporate partners.”

Bill Sanders, interim director of the Discovery Partners Institute
“As one of the IIN’s original hubs, the Discovery Partners Institute is thrilled to welcome these nine new members to the network. We look forward to serving as a central resource and gathering place for IIN members as we work together to grow the economy, create jobs and build a much-needed workforce for the state. Researchers from DPI partner schools will make use of IIN to inspire, vet and implement throughout the state their solutions to 21st century grand challenge problems, building prosperity for all.”

David Glassman, president of Eastern Illinois University
“Eastern Illinois University’s involvement in the Illinois Innovation Network creates additional opportunities for EIU to positively impact our region and our state. We look forward to proactively collaborating with our network partners, which will allow us to more efficiently meet the unique demands of our regional workforce, as well as the more comprehensive needs of our broader Illinois economy.”

Elaine P. Maimon, president Governors State University
“The Illinois Innovation Network provides a framework for Governors State University to cooperate with other Illinois public universities to apply knowledge and research to the state’s most pressing problems and to stimulate economic growth.”

Larry Dietz, president of Illinois State University
“By joining the Illinois Innovation Network, Illinois State University is able to play an even bigger role in promoting technological development and economic growth in this state. Through this partnership, Illinois startups and existing businesses will benefit from the expertise of our faculty and staff, and our students will benefit from expanded learning opportunities. Illinois State’s commitment to learning and innovation, and its core value of civic engagement, make this partnership a natural fit.”

Gloria J. Gibson, president of Northeastern Illinois University
“Northeastern Illinois University shares a drive and discipline with the state’s business community that we all bring to the Illinois Innovation Network. We are committed to contributing our experience, creativity and connections to boosting economic growth in the neighborhoods where we live as we work collaboratively to develop a workforce that meets the current and future needs of our state.”

Lisa Freeman, president of Northern Illinois University
“NIU’s participation in the Illinois Innovation Network will help us assist communities in planning and preparing for sustainable futures. Our collective commitment to collaboration is a strength that positions all of us for future success because no single institution has the capacity to solve such global-scale problems as ensuring healthy food and water supplies and creating resilient environments for communities in Illinois and throughout the world.”

Bob Sehring, CEO of OSF HealthCare, a leader in the Peoria Innovation Hub
“OSF HealthCare was an early partner for the Discovery Partners Institute and OSF is excited to spearhead development of the Illinois Innovation Network in Peoria. These initiatives allow for transformational collaborations between industry and academia to solve problems, retain top talent and grow jobs in the state of Illinois.”

John M. Dunn, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale
“The newly established Illinois Innovation Network will provide significant opportunities to our campus – the southernmost hub in the state. We are grateful for the opportunity to leverage our signature programs and our research enterprise in collaboration with our partners throughout Illinois.”

Randy Pembrook, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
“SIUE is pleased to participate in the IIN and to join Illinois public higher education institutions to address our local communities’ and state’s most pressing challenges. The collaborative possibilities that grow out of the IIN will leverage the strength of the state’s intellectual resources to advance discovery and innovation, while enhancing student learning opportunities and research collaboration. Importantly, it creates new partnerships, energy and momentum to address the state’s workforce and economic development needs, so we can retain talent and enhance our citizen’s lives. At SIUE, our mission is to ’shape a changing world,’ and we believe that together we can address the challenges and position Illinois as a national leader.”

Michael D. Amiridis, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago
“As an inaugural hub for IIN, we are eager to build and develop partnerships across the network to increase the impact that UIC projects in drug development, cyber-security, artificial intelligence and data mining have on the state. These collaborative efforts will benefit our students through enhanced educational opportunities and serve the people and businesses of Illinois.”

Alex Stagnaro-Green, dean of the U of I regional medical campus in Rockford
“As part of the Illinois Innovation Network, the regional medical campus in Rockford can form collaborations and partnerships that will help us further our mission of education, research and service for health. These collaborations have potential to not only make an impact in the Rockford area, but throughout the state and, in some cases, throughout the nation and the world.”

Robert J. Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“We’re excited about the enormous potential IIN offers us to deliver on the land-grant university mission for the 21st century to our state and nation. From anchoring a quantum revolution in Chicago to fueling a wave of social and economic development that can revitalize cities and industries across the entire state, this network of partners and innovators harnesses the unmatched intellectual resources of Illinois universities in a unique and powerful new way. The continuing expansion of IIN is great news for every citizen of our state.”

Susan J. Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield
“The University of Illinois Springfield’s downtown business and social innovation center, Innovate Springfield, was announced last year as the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network. We’re excited to see IIN officially launched and look forward to collaborating with DPI in Chicago and hubs around the state to maximize the expertise of our universities and spur innovation and economic development statewide.”

Jack Thomas, president of Western Illinois University
“Western Illinois University embraces social responsibility as one of its four core values and serves as a resource for, and stimulus to, educational, cultural, environmental, community and economic development in our region and well beyond. Partnerships with the Illinois Innovation Network will advance community and economic development, and Western is proud to be a partner in a network that will have an impact throughout the state, the nation and the world. The Illinois Innovation Network is a critical asset to recruit and retain top talent in Illinois, and our university’s participation advances Western’s mission of preparing students to lead in diverse and dynamic communities.”

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill
“Illinois’ public universities are some of the biggest economic drivers in this state and, by cultivating collaboration between them, the Illinois Innovation Network is fostering enhanced entrepreneurship and workforce development. The expansion of this program is an exciting step into the future that will benefit both the members of the network and the people of Illinois.”