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Illinois Institute of Technology signed an agreement Wednesday to partner in a new research center led by the University of Illinois System that will spark breakthrough discoveries, fueling economic growth of the state of Illinois and city of Chicago while nurturing and retaining next-generation talent.

One of the nation’s premier universities, Illinois Tech will bring expertise in a variety of critical areas to the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), including computing, data science, design thinking, food science, biomedical engineering and intellectual property law. Areas of partnership will include educational, cultural and research activities, including exchange of faculty and students for research, lectures and discussions.

“I am delighted that Illinois Tech, with its proven record as a leader in innovation and education, is partnering with DPI to boost the entire state’s future and make Illinois the center of gravity for pioneering research discovery,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

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 to drive progress and economic growth.

“Illinois Tech is a global tech leader, with a rich history of producing the innovation and talented alumni who have helped transform our everyday lives,” said Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System. “With its excellence added to our growing innovation ecosystem, there are no limits to what DPI can achieve in its push toward an even better tomorrow for the people of Illinois and beyond.”

Illinois Tech President Alan W. Cramb said the new partnership will provide significant learning opportunities for students.

“Illinois Tech is honored to marshal our resources as Chicago’s tech university in support of the Discovery Partners Institute’s vision,” Cramb said. “We believe the future of Chicago – and the state – depends on expanding tech innovation to more of our fellow citizens as well as to new horizons of economic opportunity and entrepreneurship. Illinois Tech was founded on this mission more than 125 years ago, and we look forward to supporting that mission as a partner in the Discovery Partners Institute.”

Among other achievements, Illinois Tech has distinguished itself as a technology leader in sustainable energy and energy distribution by developing the nation’s first functional smart microgrid on its campus, a self-sufficient energy system. The university’s Institute for Food Safety and Health is world-renowned for food science research, in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the food industry. In addition, the university’s Chicago-Kent College of Law is regarded among the top universities in the nation for intellectual property law and trial advocacy.

“Both DPI and Illinois Tech stand at the crossroads of exploration and invention, fueling breakthroughs that will advance the future of Chicago and the world,” said Illinois Tech Provost Peter Kilpatrick. “We are very excited about the partnership as we continue to provide our students with even more hands-on opportunities to discover, create and solve.”

Illinois Tech, the only tech-focused university in the Chicago area, is home to nearly 7,000 students from 100 countries and is ranked among the nation’s top 100 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Located on Chicago’s South Side, the university is in close proximity to DPI’s future home on a downtown site along the Chicago River. DPI currently operates in offices at 200 S. Wacker Drive in Chicago.

Under the agreement signed Wednesday, Illinois Tech joins DPI as its 10th academic partner. Others are inaugural partners Northwestern University and the University of Chicago; the three U of I System universities; and international partners Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, MS Ramaiah Medical College in India, and Cardiff University in Wales.

“These 10 academic partners uniquely position DPI to fulfill its mission of economic development, job creation and talent delivery, and the addition of Illinois Tech as the fourth partner in the Chicago area allows DPI to uniquely connect the academic and business/tech communities together in Chicago,” said interim DPI Director Bill Sanders.

P33, an initiative launched last fall to make Chicago the global leader in high-tech discovery and innovation, helped facilitate Illinois Tech’s partnership with DPI. Founded by PSP Partners Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Ocient CEO Chris Gladwin and Kelly Welsh, president of the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago, the nonprofit organization collaborates with established companies, start-ups, academia, venture capitalists, research institutions, and community groups to reinvigorate Chicago’s tech community.

“This partnership between Illinois Tech and DPI is a clear reflection of the growing momentum that is pushing Chicago’s tech community forward,” said P33 CEO Brad Henderson. “Through this relationship, Chicago will be able to offer more opportunities for students across the city – growing Chicago’s tech talent pipeline and creating a more inclusive environment. P33 is excited about this advancement and proud to serve as the connective tissue across Chicago’s tech community, empowering these types of partnerships that will help establish Chicago as a top-tier tech hub.”

The new partnership with Illinois Tech is among the latest milestones for DPI and the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a group of research and education hubs connected to universities and communities across the state – including DPI – that is also being led by the U of I System. Among its recent accomplishments:

Re-appropriation of $500 million in the state’s fiscal 2020 budget for planning and construction of DPI and IIN research hubs across the state.
Raising about $400 million in non-state funds toward DPI and IIN. The U of I System, its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, and Northern Illinois University are providing matching funds totaling $230 million. Corporate investments will provide nearly $170 million.
Adding nine new IIN hubs in May that expanded the network to 15 hubs, including one in every Illinois city with a public university presence. Work at each hub will have its own distinct focus in critical fields that enhance their respective regions’ economy and workforce, such as agriculture, cybersecurity, data science, environmental change, food and water resources, and therapeutic drug discovery.
Hosting DPI workshops across the U of I System that attracted nearly 1,000 faculty and staff who are sharing their talents to develop the research center’s research and education programs. Workshops have generated numerous project proposals and early collaborations.
Providing seed funding for nine projects, including one to help communities develop a sustainable statewide pipeline of computer science teachers, and another to integrate people with autism spectrum disorders into the technology and innovation workforce.
Hiring key staff to lead the center. Among the latest new hires are Matt Bell, DPI managing director, formally a managing director at Cultivian Sandbox Ventures and Mark Harris, former president and CEO of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition and Institute, who will serve as director of external engagements and partnerships.