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URBANA – A new statewide innovation enterprise led by the University of Illinois System that will accelerate economic growth in Illinois got a major boost when $500 million in funding support approved by the General Assembly in the fiscal 2019 state budget was signed into law Monday by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Announced last October, the $1.2 billion statewide Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) and its primary hub, the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), are being developed to accelerate innovation, job creation and economic growth throughout Illinois.

Gov. Rauner recommended the half-billion dollars in funding for the initiatives in his budget proposal to the legislature, saying the investment “could be the biggest spark ever to ignite our economic growth engine.”

The state funding will go toward design and construction of DPI, which will be home to world-class research and hands-on educational training for hundreds of students, as well as to hubs of the IIN stretching across Illinois beyond Chicago.

U of I System President Tim Killeen said the new enterprise will massively accelerate the research discovery that fosters innovation.

“I am deeply grateful to the legislature and Gov. Rauner for supporting this new bridge to progress,” Killeen said. “With their tremendous scale and the U of I System’s research know-how as an anchor, DPI and IIN can make Illinois the new center of gravity for economic growth. They can stimulate pioneering discovery that will not just rival Silicon Valley, but leapfrog it.”

Gov. Rauner said: “The DPI funding initiative will help bring our great universities together with business and venture capital sources to develop job-creating enterprises in Illinois. DPI will be a pipeline of talent and ideas that can propel our economy for years to come.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: “Chicago is where the best minds from around the globe come to innovate, break new ground and make new discoveries The Discovery Partners Institute, anchored by the University of Illinois, will be a transformative force on the Near South Side of Chicago with an impact that will reach across the region and around the world.”

Illinois Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady said: “The Discovery Partners Institute will benefit every region of our great state.”

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said: “Illinois has long served as the nation’s leading transportation hub, moving goods and people across the country and around the world. The Discovery Partners Institute project seizes on that brand of leadership and will similarly push Illinois to the global forefront in moving ideas and innovation.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said: “The University of Illinois System has been one of our state’s greatest assets, and the Discovery Partners Institute will be the lead effort in innovation opportunities that will boost economic growth in Illinois.”

University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Tim Koritz said: “It is an exciting and historic moment for our universities as this statewide knowledge and innovation network will leverage and expand the tremendous assets our system has to offer in the sciences, technology and humanities.”

Ed Seidel, U of I System vice president for economic development and innovation, said: “DPI and IIN will anchor an entire network of innovation hubs that will connect great universities, national labs, companies and schools around the state and beyond. Faculty, staff, students and the private sector will collaborate in a unique living-learning environment to solve the world’s grand challenges.”

At DPI, world-class researchers will work side-by-side with students and businesses to foster next-generation innovation and workforce development. Work is currently underway on an implementation plan that will be completed later this year, establishing a timetable for opening and other details of the institute.

Plans call for DPI to be developed on a site along the Chicago River. Once established, it will operate principally through private donations, partnerships with business and industry, and its own generation of revenue. When it was announced, officials said DPI also hopes to attract government support, such as the capital funding in the fiscal 2019 state budget. Talks also are ongoing with prospective partners and donors.

The new institute will bring together top faculty in agriculture, healthcare, computing and other critical fields from the U of I System and partner universities that already include the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. Dozens of new researchers also will be added and together they will connect with hundreds of businesses and thousands of students over time, as well as with entrepreneurs and venture capital firms.

Their research and educational collaborations will address real-world challenges, promoting the kind of breakthrough discoveries that create new products and companies. Those innovations will fuel economic growth, while also providing hands-on experiences for students and nurturing a skilled workforce for the city and state.

The institute will be the centerpiece of IIN, a virtually connected statewide enterprise allowing DPI staff to work with university and business partners in other regions across the state on research and education initiatives that help launch new businesses and lift communities.

IIN sites will include the U of I System’s universities in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign, and are expected to grow to other sites in Illinois and beyond.


The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with nearly 84,000 students, 24,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 22,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.