By Adam Pollet, Director, Illinois Department of Economic Development and Opportunity (DCEO)

ArgonneMore than 20 innovation hubs launched by state or university dollars serve as connection points for the innovation ecosystems for regions and technologies across Illinois from Rockford to Carbondale.  They serve as magnets for talent, ideas, and investment.  These physical spaces connect the state’s world-class research, talent, and industry to create new technology-based products, companies, and jobs.

The hubs highlighted in the recent ISTC Innovation Hub fact sheet (also below) demonstrate the direct role that these centers, and State support, have on growing Illinois’ economy and transforming key regional industries including biopharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and clean tech, including clean coal.  Over the past 15 years, more than $214 million in State investment has seeded $5.3 billion in private sector investment and federal support.  A 25:1 leverage rate for Illinois tax payer dollars is an impressive return on investment and demonstrates the importance of State dollars as a catalyst for further investment in our economy through science and technology.

The $320 million Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) recently awarded to UI LABS by President Obama is a strong example of the importance of innovation hubs in bringing together partners to tackle big challenges – in this case, in manufacturing competitiveness.  The $16 million committed by Governor Quinn to build the facility and connect Illinois manufacturers to its efforts helped ensure that this center of the next industrial revolution was located right here in Illinois.

1871.imageInnovation hubs also bring together local communities.  The EIGERlab in Rockford serves as a nexus for the Rockford Area Aerospace Network of more than 200 aerospace suppliers.  Through startup support, technical training, and other initiatives at EIGERlab, the Rockford community as a whole has added or retained more than 3,300 aerospace jobs and sparked $400 million in additional private sector investment.

More than 620 companies have been supported through innovation hub infrastructure, programs, and access to partners.  Hubs like the Southern Illinois University Research Park make it possible for companies like Thermaquatica to demonstrate their technologies and scale into viable businesses.  Thermaquatica has developed a process to convert coal and other biomass such as farm waste into the building blocks of fuels, plastics, and synthetic fabric, reducing the need to use foreign oil for this process which is expensive, environmentally unfriendly, and furthers foreign energy dependence.

These ecosystems have led to the creation of at least 5,600 jobs – and the full potential has yet to be reached as newer facilities move startups towards growth.

The role of place-based innovation that brings the commercialization ecosystem together to share ideas and build partnerships is a vital driver of opportunity for Illinois.  Governor Quinn’s recent commitments to MATTER Chicago – the State’s new biotech incubator – and the recent announcement of new hubs for food innovation and female entrepreneurs at 1871 present an opportunity to extend the role of innovation hubs to additional communities.

As central convening points, innovation hubs  maximize the productivity of Illinois’  already world-class researchers and companies,  and prepare communities across the state for our 21st century high-tech economy.

Watch and Listen:

 Obama Announces $320M Digital Lab for Chicago

Governor Quinn Announces MATTER, a New Healthcare Technology Startup Hub

More News:

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.

UTP at IIT Located in Chicago’s south side on the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) campus, University Technology Park (UTP) is one of the nation’s fastest-growing hubs for high-tech innovation. It provides more than 300,000 square feet of wet and dry lab and office space for growing companies. Continue reading at the Illinois Innovation Network