UI Labs files for incorporation

CHICAGO — The University of Illinois idea factory envisioned for Chicago is one step closer to reality now that incorporation papers have been filed with the state.

UI Labs is a research and development institute backed by university, state and city of Chicago officials. It's a place where scientists from the UI and other universities are proposed to partner with corporations in computational, information sciences and engineering research. With an anticipated $100 million research portfolio and the goal of employing hundreds of scientists and students in its early years, UI Labs has been touted as a future economic driver for the Midwest.

According to the paperwork filed with the state, UI Labs will also foster workforce development, entrepreneurial activities, civic engagement and outreach in areas such as high performance computing, advanced manufacturing, transportation, health, energy, food production and more.

A location in the city has not been chosen yet, but now that UI Labs is a legal entity, officials representing it can formally scout Chicago-area real estate, plan for the hiring of a director and raise money for its endeavors.

Organizers can also work on filling out its board of directors. The three initial members are Larry Schook, the UI's vice president for research; Henry Bienen, former president of Northwestern University; and Warren Holtsberg, a UI graduate who is vice chairman of IllinoisVentures, the UI's venture capital firm. Bienen and Holtsberg were traveling on Friday and unavailable for comment.

Holtsberg, who has an advertising degree from the UI, has been active in Illinois' venture capital scene for years. In addition to serving on the board of IllinoisVentures, the UI subsidiary which invests in startup companies with Illinois ties, Holtsberg is a partner of the Tokarz Group and co-head of portfolio management for MVC Capital Fund. A former Motorola executive, he founded Motorola Ventures, the company's venture capital arm.

Bienen, a political scientist by training, was president of Northwestern University from 1995 until his retirement in 2009. He's also currently on the Chicago Board of Education and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Holtsberg was a natural fit for UI Labs, Schook said.

"He's been around a long time in the tech space in Chicago. He knows everybody in Chicago and is a friend of the university," he said.

Bienen had offered his support early on as the idea was percolating among top university, state and city officials.

Bienen "is a real statesman, and a greatly admired person in Chicago," Schook said.

The board's first meeting has not been scheduled yet, but it will occur in the coming months.

"There's a sequence we've got to work through now. Clearly, we've got to get bylaws in place. ... The board will have to approve those bylaws, and the board will negotiate an affiliation agreement with university," Schook said.

UI Labs, like the UI's Alumni Association and UI Foundation, is a nonprofit corporation, and a legal document outlining its relationship with the university will need to be drafted.

UI trustees first heard publicly about the idea in January but have not taken any formal action on the lab yet.

After completing all the necessary paperwork, the UI Labs board can then discuss who might be an appropriate director for the research and development lab, Schook said.

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