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William C. Jackson, a former president at Johnson Controls and an alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been named to head the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), the world-class center for research and innovation led by the U of I System, President Tim Killeen announced today.

Jackson assumes this leadership position as DPI, headquartered in Chicago and linked to communities across the state, works to become a cornerstone of Illinois’ technology development and training ecosystem. DPI will partner with corporations, the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois to provide a talent pipeline, and drive research and development. It will bring together top researchers and thousands of students in an effort to cultivate and retain talent for the state and enhance economic development.

“Bill Jackson brings know-how and vision, built over three decades as a senior executive, as DPI enters its next, crucial phase,” Killeen said. “His background in engineering and business and his grasp of the roles industry can play in solving real-world challenges make him an ideal choice to lead DPI.

“As a two-time graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bill also is no stranger to our university system,” Killeen added. “He has maintained strong ties to the university.”

Jackson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Urbana-Champaign, as well as a master’s of business administration from the University of Chicago. He has been chairman of the Board of Visitors for the The Grainger College of Engineering in Urbana for the last three years. The Board of Visitors is an advisory group that offers counsel to the college on strategic issues.

DPI was created to accelerate job creation and economic growth through groundbreaking research, education and innovation. The state has approved $500 million in funding to develop DPI and the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). IIN is a virtually connected network of regional hubs that will spread the DPI’s impact across the state.

“DPI is unique because it brings together the best of the state of Illinois and city of Chicago, the University of Illinois System, and DPI’s partner institutions to work on translational technology research and to train the current and next generations of technology leaders,” Jackson said. “I am excited and honored to lead this venture.”

Jackson comes to DPI after serving as vice president and president of Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls’ Global Products, Building Technologies & Solutions. The company produces building-security, climate-control and HVAC equipment, and fire-suppression products.

Jackson succeeds Bill Sanders, who left DPI at the end of the year to become dean of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, one of the nation’s top-ranked engineering schools. Jackson began his new duties as interim executive director in a designate capacity on Jan. 6, pending formal approval by the Board of Trustees at its Jan. 16 meeting in Chicago.

DPI is pioneering a new model to activate universities’ assets to address grand challenges, retain and attract talent, and drive economic vitality in Illinois.

Under Jackson’s leadership, DPI will focus on establishing a number of deep industry partnerships, as well as identifying aligned research interests with university partners to attract federal and private funding. He also will work to add internships, research experiences, and workshops for both university and K-12 students, and to advance planning for the center’s permanent headquarters.

DPI was announced along with IIN in 2017. It is led by the U of I System and its three universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield and now operates in downtown Chicago with plans for an eventual permanent site along the Chicago River.

Under Sanders, DPI established partnerships with 12 universities and research institutes in the United States and abroad. Sanders also helped lobby successfully for state funding and helped raise matching funds, hired an experienced leadership team, and began engaging faculty and students through workshops and seed grants.