Governor, UI to launch public-private research institute in Chicago

Governor, UI to launch public-private research institute in Chicago

Updated, 2:45 p.m.:

CHICAGO — A public-private education and research institute that would give the University of Illinois’ flagship campus a bigger presence in Chicago is being proposed by the University of Illinois and Gov. Bruce Rauner, though its funding and other details are still being developed.

Dubbed the Discovery Partners Institute, the UI-led initiative would allow top faculty and students from several universities to work side-by-side with industry to produce innovations and spinoff companies that would enrich the state’s economy and keep talent in Illinois, according to the UI.

Groundbreaking is expected to occur in 2018, with the institute fully developed by 2022, UI President Tim Killeen said Wednesday.

Funding will come largely from private sources, including philanthropic foundations and industry, "but we're anticipating state and city support as well," Killeen said.

Officials plan to unveil more details Thursday in Chicago, including the naming of an interim director.

The institute would be located along the Chicago River and Roosevelt Road in the South Loop, just east of the UI's Chicago campus, according to media reports.

It would include the UI’s Urbana and Chicago campuses as well as Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, who have signed on as inaugural partners.

The plan is to attract 90 new world-class faculty entrepreneurs in a range of fields and eventually serve up to 1,800 students a year. That would include both undergraduate and graduate students from the UI system, who would spend one to four semesters living in Chicago while working at the institute’s research labs and at businesses and startups in Chicago.

Existing faculty at the UI's campuses would also take part, and the institute will bring in students and support faculty from partner universities. At full operation, it would serve up to 10,000 students every five years.

Research would initially focus on advances in “big data” technology, from cybersecurity to the “internet of things; in health care, including new drugs and treatment methods; and in food and agriculture breakthroughs, to improve nutrition and help feed a growing world, the UI said.

“It incorporates some of what UI Labs is already doing, but this is a much bigger initiative,” said Rauner spokesman Hud Englehart, referring to the public-private research and development organization in Chicago involving the University of Illinois, which launched in 2013.

The interdisciplinary collaborations would address real-world challenges, in the hopes of creating breakthrough discoveries that lead to new products and companies, while giving students hands-on experience and creating a highly skilled work force for the future, the UI said.

It would be part of an “Illinois Innovation Network” championed by Rauner and led by the UI system, linking businesses and universities engaged in research and education initiatives across the state. The idea is to develop new partnerships and approaches that could launch companies and promote economic growth.

"This is a strong component of what the University of Illinois should do to build a tax base in the state and provide opportunities for students, keep our high schoolers in state as well as our graduates," Killeen said.

The institute would have joint university-industry research labs, with businesses investing in early stages of research to eventually license and commercialize their innovations.

Competitive startup packages would be offered to lure faculty there from around the world.

The ultimate goal is to create high-paying jobs in Illinois, retain talented entrepreneurs and researchers in-state, and spur $500 million a year in outside research and development, the UI said.

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CharacterCounts wrote on October 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Another example of a UI president trying to move important parts of the UI to Chicago.  This is the problem with a majority of the board of trustees living and working in the Chicago area.  Hopefully the cities of Champaign-Urbana will let their displeasure known to the administration.  It was not that long ago that a UI president essentially declined to live in the President's House on campus.  He & his wife initially declined to register to vote in Champaign County, but after some publicity, they did register to vote here.  At one time the UI chief legal counsel had his office in Chicago rather than on the UIUC campus.  They continue to abandon the UIUC campus one piece at a time.  No wonder world top professors leave the UIUC campus, they see how the top leadership looks at the UIUC campus as secondary to Chicago.