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CHICAGO — The Illinois Institute of Technology has become the seventh university to join the University of Illinois-led Discovery Partners Institute.

Illinois Tech signed an agreement Wednesday to partner on the research initiative, which is designed to bring students, faculty, industry and government together to spark breakthrough discoveries, fuel economic growth and help retain the state’s top talent.

Illinois Tech has about 7,000 students and is ranked among the nation’s top 100 universities by U.S. News & World Report, the UI said in announcing the partnership. Located on Chicago’s South Side, it’s also close to DPI’s future home along the Chicago River.

Illinois Tech will lend expertise in computing, data science, design thinking, food science, biomedical engineering and intellectual property law, officials said. It will also partner in educational, cultural and research activities through DPI.

Besides the UI system’s three universities in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield, DPI’s academic partners include Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, MS Ramaiah Medical College in India and Cardiff University in Wales.

Interim DPI Director Bill Sanders said the addition of Illinois Tech as a fourth partner in Chicago will allow DPI to connect academic and business/tech communities there.

Illinois Tech President Alan Cramb said the partnership will provide new learning opportunities for students at “Chicago’s tech university.”

“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,” he said in a release.

Illinois Tech developed the nation’s first functional smart microgrid on its campus, a self-sufficient energy system. Its Institute for Food Safety and Health is also world-renowned for food science research.

“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,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a release.

The UI has raised about $400 million in “non-state funds” for DPI and the statewide Illinois Innovation Network, which now has 15 “hubs,” one in every public university community. The UI’s three universities and Northern Illinois University are providing about $230 million of that, and another $170 million is coming from corporate investments.

DPI recently added two executives: Managing Director Matt Bell, 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 be director of external engagements and partnerships.

Reporter/Columnist

Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).