UI DPI Jackson

William C. Jackson, a former vice president and president of a division of Johnson Controls, which makes building-safety products, began work Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, as executive director of the University of Illinois' Discovery Partners Institute.

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CHICAGO — The University of Illinois is hiring a businessman to run the Discovery Partners Institute.

William C. Jackson began working Monday, and the UI Board of Trustees will formally vote on his $414,000-a-year appointment Jan. 16, the UI announced Wednesday.

Jackson is a former vice president and president of a division of Johnson Controls, which makes a variety of building-safety products, and before that, as a consultant for Booz, Allen & Hamilton.

He holds two degrees from the UI in mechanical engineering, as well as an MBA from the University of Chicago, and early in his career, he worked as an engineer for Lockheed, according to a profile of him on Johnson Control’s website.

Jackson is replacing Bill Sanders, the interim executive director who left to become the dean of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Jackson is taking over at the DPI, which was conceived in 2017 and is beginning to take shape.

The UI is spending $500,000 to develop a business plan and economic impact study, and the institute’s budget grew this year to $4.2 million.

The Chicago-based research and education center is designed to bring together students and faculty from the UI and other universities to tackle big challenges and promote innovation and entrepreneurship, working with partners in industry, government and other sectors.

In August, DPI cleared its final state regulatory hurdle, as the Illinois Board of Higher Education agreed to allow it to operate for the next five years.

DPI is working out of temporary space in downtown Chicago, holding classes, funding faculty research projects and ramping up its staff.

The UI has plans for a new 500,000-square-foot permanent facility that will be part of a development known as “The 78” near the South Loop, using half of the $500 million promised by the state for DPI and the statewide Illinois Innovation Network.

The plan is to have DPI at “full strength” in its new building by 2023.