Discovery Partners Institute will increase innovation and research

By Olivia Welshans, Staff Writer

A new institution launched by University of Illinois System will offer new opportunities to students to pursue research, innovation and bond with businesses.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and University President Tim Killeen announced the plans for the Discovery Partners Institute at a press conference in Chicago on Oct. 19.

According to the DPI website, the institute will be a place for faculty, students and businesses to collaborate and “develop solutions, promote entrepreneurship, and empower inventors of the future.”

Research in the institute will focus on fields in agriculture, health care, computing, and partnering faculty and students with businesses to research and make discoveries that create new products and companies, according to the DPI website.

The DPI will be located on the Chicago riverfront on a site donated by development company Related Midwest. Curt Bailey, Related Midwest president, said at the press conference his company was happy to “invest in a project that aligns with our key values of collaboration, innovation, leadership, and community.”

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In addition to the DPI, they also announced that they will launch the Illinois Innovation Network, which will be like extensions of the DPI in communities across Illinois. The IIN will allow students to work side by side with the University and businesses on education and research initiatives with the intention of starting new companies and bettering communities.

The University of Illinois System has partnered with the University of Chicago and Northwestern University to create the DPI and IIN, and nodes of the institute will be present at each of their campuses and whatever universities that partner in the future, their website says.  

Dr. Timothy Koritz, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said the DPI and IIN will involve all levels of students, undergraduates and graduates.

“I believe the idea is to involve everyone. For big grants with industries it may involve more graduate students, but it will involve undergraduates as well,” Koritz said.

As well as being an education initiative, the DPI and IIN are part of an initiative by the State of Illinois to boost the economy and increase the job market.

Rauner said the keys to economic growth in Illinois are innovation and technology. He said that the state can accomplish this in part by convincing the students from Illinois’s most tech savvy universities to remain and start their companies in Illinois.

“Our number one goal must be to have the University of Illinois expand its impact, expand its opportunities, here within the state of Illinois, so its students, its faculty, its researchers, its entrepreneurs, have an opportunity to build their businesses here –in downtown Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, Rockford, Peoria, Springfield,” Rauner said.

Koritz said he believes the Governor is attempting to create a place like Silicon Valley in Chicago, a hub for technology and innovation.  

“I believe that Illinois has the capability, it is just not all in one spot. It is just question of bringing it all together,” he said.

Koritz said that an implementation plan for the institute is in the making, and ideally the University will be able to break ground on the DPI in 2018. However, he said they will have to wait for the proper funding to do so.

“The reality of this is you will not break ground on a building until you have the commerce,”

The DPI building will cost approximately $1.2 billion to construct, and funding for the institute will come from a mixture of “public and private enterprise,” Koritz said. The University is also working with the Governor to secure money for the institute.

Arnav Sankaran, freshman in Engineering, said the DPI will offer many new opportunities to fellow Engineering students.

“I think it is a really great edition to the University, since it will give new students the chance to leverage the University’s resources, strengthen the College of Engineering and to actually take those ideas out and work with high quality industry professionals and researchers to bring them to life,” Sankaran said.

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