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Illinois Innovation Network to drive economic development

Plans were unveiled October 19 for an Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) to boost the state’s economy through a $1.2 billion project bringing together research universities, business and the public sector.

Proponents say the IIN will propel ground-breaking innovations in computing and big data, advanced materials, food and agriculture, and biosciences and health, while driving job and economic growth throughout the state.

Highlighting the network’s emphasis on discovery and innovation, the IIN would offer an Illinois-based campus allowing inventors, entrepreneurs and students to grow and learn from each other and the network’s world-class faculty.

The network would be led by the University of Illinois system, in conjunction with inaugural partners the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.  The IIN will be home to the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), with a major facility located in Chicago on donated land along the Chicago River. At DPI, students and faculty will work with leading researchers and Illinois businesses on the development of new technologies.

The IIN and the DPI are being heralded as opportunities to attract venture capital investment in Illinois, and also offer a state-of-the-art campus intended to keep and draw top graduates in the state.

An exceptional return on investment has been estimated by the U of I system, which includes training for approximately 10,000 student entrepreneurs every five years once DPI is fully operational.  It’s also anticipated there will be more than $300 million in private real estate investment and an estimated $500 million annually in new research and development spending.  It’s also projected the plan could fuel $4 billion in yearly venture capital investment, which is four times more than what Illinois currently benefits from.

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