State releases $500 million for technology innovation network with 15 hubs

By Jerry Nowicki

Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD - Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday touted statewide benefits he said will result from a $500 million state capital infrastructure investment in 15 hubs of a University of Illinois-led public-private research institute network.

Pritzker, a Chicago Democrat, held a Chicago news conference on the site of one of the future developments. The funding originally approved under former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and reauthorized in last year's state operating budget.

The money is for the planning and construction of the Discovery Partners Institute - a public-private research and development and workforce development hub led by the UI - and 14 other hubs of a statewide program.

"Today's announcement is so exciting. It will fast-track construction planning and we hope to break ground for DPI in a few months," said university President Timothy Killeen.

The Discovery Partners Institute campus will receive $230 million of the $500 million state investment and will be located in Chicago's South Loop in a development area known as The 78, so named because the real estate developer, Related Midwest, has plans to make it the city's 78th neighborhood.

Pritzker said through another U of I-led program - the Illinois Innovation Network - the investment's economic impact will be felt statewide.

Each of the state's public universities will create specific programs and facilities that fall in line with the Illinois Innovation Network and Discovery Partners Institute's innovation, workforce development and economic goals.

Pritzker said making Illinois a hub for innovation will make it a more desirable place for students specializing in tech fields to start their careers after college graduation.

"Through the Illinois Innovation Network, DPI's success will radiate across the state to 15 hubs from Chicago to Rockford to Peoria to Edwardsville," Pritzker said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the project could be "a game changer" for the city, which will also be making improvements to the area surrounding the new facility. She said it will help the city and state retain students upon graduation.

"The problem is after we train and educate our students … they leave," she said.

She said only about half of U of I engineering graduates remain in the state, while only 38 percent of computer science and computer engineering graduates from the university's Urbana-Champaign campus stay in the state after graduating.

"Today is about turning all of that around," she said.

Killeen quoted an economic impact study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group that said the project will create 48,000 jobs in the next 10 years, generating an economic impact of $19 billion.

According to the Discovery Partners Institute's website, programs at the facility "will initially focus on our economy's existing strengths: data analytics and computing, and their applications in food and agriculture; health and wellness; finance and insurance; and transportation/logistics. All of these industries have a strong Fortune 500 presence in the state."

The state's investment will be augmented by private and university investment as well, including $230 million that is already committed from U of I fundraising efforts. The governor's office released a document with other committed and pending non-state funds that total more than $500 million in private and other state university investment in the DPI facility and the other 14 state hubs.

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