By John L. Anderson, Chairman, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition and President, Illinois Institute of Technology

This edition of ISTC Catalyst highlights Illinois and its research, development and innovation (RDI) economy. Recently, research institutions and national labs across the state have announced a number of new breakthroughs in science and technology that put Illinois at center stage. Just a week ago physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois announced that they have come tantalizingly close to proving the existence of the Higgs Boson, also known as the “God Particle.” Doctors at the University of Chicago are going through clinical trials for a novel approach to breast cancer therapy, while the Illinois-based National Corn to Ethanol Research Center recently reached a milestone with the successful production of cellulosic ethanol from corn fiber or corn bran. Work like this is why Illinois is the RDI hub it is today, while also attracting important businesses and jobs to the state. Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory alone had a combined economic impact of over $1.3 billion in FY 2010, and Astellas Pharma U.S. opened their new America headquarters in Northbrook this June, saying they expected to hire 90 employees that month.

Read on as Illinois Institute of Technology President and new ISTC Board Chairman John Anderson talks more about the Illinois RDI economy and why it’s important to keep and attract young talent:

Every day, in every city in the world, the work of scientists, technology professionals, engineers and mathematicians is on display. It can be seen in the bridges we drive across, the tunnels that house our subways, the interconnected electronic devices we use, and the buildings in which we live and work.  It can be found in the electric power grids that provide energy to our hospitals and homes, the algorithms that help us crunch data, and the materials that make our airplanes fast as well as safe and fuel-efficient.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields produce innovators and problem solvers extraordinaire—professionals whose impact is far-reaching and life changing. It was a team of engineers who created the first portable cell phone—and an engineer who took those first steps on the moon. Physicists are celebrating the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson, the missing link in the theory of sub-atomic particles—and consumers are eagerly anticipating the next generation of smart phones and life-benefitting pharmaceuticals.

In today’s “everything is mobile” society, certain segments of the engineering profession are currently in high demand. They include systems engineers, computer engineers, software engineers, and electrical engineers.  They are the men and women behind cloud computing and mobile apps. They are the ones in companies such as Groupon, Google, Apple and the latest high-tech start-ups are seeking and recruiting.

We need to find more ways to make Illinois an attractive destination for top STEM talent—a place where talented young men and women will go to college, and then stay to work, start a business and put down roots. We need to provide a technical, business and civic environment that is viewed as nurturing to start-ups in order to attract and retain the new generation of innovators whose ideas are as likely to be developed on a smart phone as in a garage.  And our universities must evaluate their curricula in STEM areas to ensure they are providing the human resources necessary to drive an innovative economy.

Let’s all work together to make Illinois the ‘Innovation State’—and let the next generation of talented young women and men know that Illinois is a great place to invent and do business.

John L. Anderson
Chairman, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition
President, Illinois Institute of Technology

Did You Know?

Research and technology parks, customized spaces designed for emerging and mature high-tech companies, illustrate well the relationship between economic development and RDI investment. By 2011, Illinois’ research and technology parks had hosted over 309 companies at different stages of development, with the majority being start-up companies in the early stage of commercializing new technologies based on research conducted at Illinois’ universities. In 2011 over 3,000 jobs were supported by local research and technology parks. Illinois’ research and technology parks include the University Technology Park at the Illinois Institute of Technology; the Research Park at the University of Illinois; the Sourthern Illinois Research Park at Southern Illinois University Carbondale; the Illinois Science and Technology park; and the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center.

Watch and Listen:

What is a Higgs Boson?

Why Chicago is an excellent location for medical research – Laurie M. Erickson – Astellas Pharma


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