2021 Reflections and Looking Forward

History will remember 2021 as another year in unprecedented times. We have all gone through numerous changes, faced new challenges, and experienced great growth in all facets of life. In this edition of Catalyst, we ask some of our corporate and academic leaders about their experiences in 2021, what lessons were learned from this monumental year, and what they’re looking forward to in 2022.

Many of the lessons learned from 2021 were about the importance of adaptation and pivoting. 

“We learned the importance of flexibility in adapting to new conditions and workplace dynamics, while still emphasizing our core strengths in building a vibrant innovation community.” said Laura Appenzeller of University of Illinois Research Park. In fact, many in the academic field learned the value of being flexible, rising to the challenge, with Covid-19 disrupting all sides of education. Jerry Blazey at NIU in a similar sentiment, expressed how, “despite disruptions, they did extraordinary work attracting external support for their research, service and engagement enterprises.” To keep up with new tasks and staying focused, required a great deal of pivoting and following the flow.

Laura Appenzeller

Jerry Blazey

“ Many in the academic field learned the value of being flexible, rising to the challenge.


The start of a new year symbolizes a chance for growth and many choose to create a resolution or goals to achieve in the upcoming year. We asked what goals our members had for 2022, either personally or within their organization. Some of the common goals involve refreshing, rebranding, and rebuilding.

Some of our members are looking forward to “developing new initiatives with expanded bandwidth” (Robert Patino, SIU) while others are focusing on community engagement and “welcoming and on-boarding new employees in a fashion that feels included and supported” (Larry Kuhn, Microsoft). Similarly, in 2022, many opportunities for growth will be internal and seen personally and professionally. Bob Greenlee at Tusk Ventures explained “my goal for myself this year is to execute. Our best strategies are only as good as our ability to deliver on the vision.” 

Larry Kuhn

Robert Patino

Bob Greenlee

The next year also brings exciting opportunities and a sense of wonder for what the future holds, such as new business ventures, developing current ones, and creating new initiatives. 

Some exciting things for our members to look forward to include: “launching a new large-scale lifestyle development area to add to our thriving offices and labs. This will bring residential, restaurants, parks, and recreational amenities to our Research Park” (Laura Appenzeller) and “new partnerships we are forming with partners in the private and public sectors aligned with NICCS” (Jerry Blazey). 

We at ISTC  are excited to see what 2022 has in store for us and look forward to seeing what our members have planned!