By Amy Francetic, CEO, Clean Energy Trust,

Greg Baise, President & CEO, Illinois Manufacturers Association,

Mark Harris, President & CEO, Illinois Science and Technology Coalition,

Fred Hoch, CEO, Illinois Technology Association

Today Governor Rauner opens the Executive Mansion to innovation community leaders from Rockford to Carbondale for Illinois Innovation Day. Co-hosted by the State of Illinois and our respective organizations – CET, IMAISTC, and ITA – Innovation Day provides an annual opportunity to celebrate and assess the role that research and technology play in the state’s economy, and to define priorities and objectives for the year ahead. Now, more than ever, research and technology are vital to strengthening the competitiveness of regions across Illinois. The state has developed the building blocks to be successful. We have world-class research institutions, top tech talent, and one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies in the nation. Partnerships are the key to linking these assets into an innovation pipeline. On this Innovation Day, the community will focus on ways to forge connections around tech incubation, industry partnerships, STEM workforce development, and cluster strategies.


Tech Incubation

Illinois is the birthplace of innovative new technologies – from the web browser and first laser heart surgery to more recent breakthroughs like Lyrica and the Chevy Volt battery. Such R&D intensive technologies coming out of our universities and labs face a long and capital-intensive path to the market. Infrastructure and funding help bridge the gap between discovery and opportunities for private sector partnerships. The state’s innovation infrastructure of more than 20 publicly-supported innovation hubs play an indispensable role in the transition of technologies from the lab to the marketplace, and have catalyzed over $2 billion in private investments. As our universities continue to support high-tech entrepreneurship and technology transfer, this hub infrastructure will play an increasingly important role in incubating and retaining Illinois grown innovation. These hubs and other early-stage technology partnerships like the Clean Energy Challenge also increase the pool of commercially-viable innovations that help fuel successes such as last year’s over $1 billion in venture funding and promote opportunities for private-sector initiatives like the TechNexus Venture Collaborative.

Industry partnerships

Illinois is blessed with a diverse and large group of corporations. Linking these companies with Illinois’ research talent, through partnerships like the UI LABS’ Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, accelerates advanced manufacturing technology creation and adoption. This corporate pool also offers startups numerous potential customers in close proximity. The challenge is directing research and driving startups to meet industry needs. Reciprocally, creating avenues for companies to look in their own back yard for technology and talent. The ISTC’S Illinois Corporate-Startup Challenge (CSC) is a seminal community effort to address this gap. CSC serves as this two-way link, connecting Fortune 1000 corporations with technologies and startups that meet their innovation goals. CSC participant NuCurrent, a wireless power startup from Northwestern University received an investment and commercial licensing deal from electronics manufacturer Molex, and Servabo, a mobile security device maker, was admitted into insurance company Allstate’s formal mentorship program. These successes have inspired industry-specific open innovation programs such as CET’s Innovation Bridge applying the CSC matchmaking model to grow Illinois’ cleantech sector, with a demo day on May 13th.

STEM workforce development

Ensuring a skilled workforce that meets the industry needs of today and tomorrow is one of the most important issues that unites the Illinois tech and innovation community. From credentialed front-line workers to advanced degree holders, understanding and evolution of cutting-edge technology is needed to drive productivity and competitiveness. Computer literacy and programming are increasingly important for careers from drug development to factory floor operations. With Illinois outpacing states like California, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas in the proportion of computer science degrees granted each year, we are creating the necessary talent. Initiatives like Illinois Pathways, which inspires and prepares students for careers in R&D, information technology, and manufacturing, are important tools to growing and retaining our best and brightest in Illinois.

Cluster strategies

Technology clusters integrate research with commercialization support and industry partners. Clusters in technologies from advanced materials and batteries to medical biotechnology and biofuels show strong alignment between national research priorities and industry density in Illinois. Cluster initiatives like the Chicago Metro Metals Consortium and Quad Cities Metals Innovation Hub will be strengthened through access to next-generation metal alloys. The Small Business Administration-funded Illinois Smart Grid Innovation Cluster and the federally-supported Rockford Area Aerospace Network are considered national models for linking research, business, and training activities. Expanding the geographic reach of such success stories and leveraging lessons learned from their creation to help regions around the state understand and support their strengths will be critical to nurturing emerging high-tech industries around the state.

Much has been accomplished in these four areas, but much remains to be done to better connect state assets and build connections between initiatives and regions. We look forward to working collaboratively with the Rauner administration, the Innovate Illinois Advisory Council, and the General Assembly to establish new partnerships that create economic opportunities across Illinois.

Watch and Listen

IL Governor Rauner at 1871 to Announce Innovate Illinois Advisory Council on Innovation


Gov. Bruce Rauner at 2015 Clean Energy Challenge



More News

Illinois Innovation Network Featured Resource:

Illinois Innovation Network Featured Resource: Each month, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition features a service or resource available to innovators and entrepreneurs in the state of Illinois on the Illinois Innovation Network. To learn more and add your resource to the Network, click here. The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition provides a voice for Illinois businesses in support of common sense immigration reform that supports Illinois’ economic recovery, provides Illinois companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and promotes the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and citizens. Continue reading at Illinois Innovation Network