Three clusters for C-U to pursue

"Clusters" brings to mind those gooey concoctions of chocolate, pecans and caramel. But clusters can also refer to concentrations of businesses in similar fields.

A study commissioned by the University of Illinois Research Park recently identified three areas with "significant potential to fuel broad, positive economic and social growth in East Central Illinois."

DATA ANALYTICS/MANAGEMENT AND COMPUTING

Includes: "Big data," cloud computing, network and computer security

Resources: National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Information Trust Institute, Advanced Digital Sciences Center

Businesses: Amdocs, Volition, Wolfram Alpha, HDF Group

Conclusion: "A critical mass of assets, talent, innovation, activity and support are present. Community support ... is clear." The study says this cluster is "the most advanced and ready for development."

BIOMEDICAL AND BIOENGINEERING

Includes: Medical devices, instruments, diagnostics, bioimaging

Resources: Carle Hospital, Beckman Institute, Institute for Genomic Biology; plus, "the UI's bioengineering department is expected to double in size over the next three to four years, with the addition of 30 faculty members."

Businesses: iCyt, Immuven, Glucosentient, Aptimmune Biologics

Conclusion: "While Carle has provided opportunities for collaboration, the hospital is not academic in focus, is limited in size and lacks a patient pool sufficient for most clinical trials."

"To grow the cluster ... will require the resources of a full-scale medical program and academic hospital. ... Early high-level discussions about an expanded medical school and academic hospital are occurring within the university."

ENERGY

Includes: Biofuels, energy storage, smart grid, renewable energy

Resources: Energy Biosciences Institute, ADM Bioenergy Modeling Center

Businesses: Dioxide Materials, Xerion Advanced Battery, Power World, Tetravitae Bioscience

Conclusion: "The combination of research and knowledge, commercialization of technology and start-up activity starts to form a critical mass for energy cluster development. ... This sector is in an earlier stage than the other two recommended clusters, but nevertheless, opportunities exist."

ABOUT THE STUDY

The 61-page report was prepared by Business Cluster Development, a consulting business based in Menlo Park, Calif. It was based, in part, on interviews with 35 "stakeholders" at the university and in the Champaign-Urbana community. The research park paid $35,000 for the consultants' study.

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EdRyan wrote on February 09, 2014 at 8:02 am

Thirty years ago, the College of Medicine was well into the expansion of the program in Urbana to a full four year program.  Budget cuts and reorganizations later reduced that back to a first year program with the MD/Ph.D. program remaining as the four year program.  The local hospitals joined in as partners in the program and there was extensive collaboration.  With the expansion of Carle, for example, into the entire region, something along those lines might work again.  The regional economy could really benefit from a collarboration and there is a road map for it if the current University leadership cares to dust it off and have a look.