More than $37 million going to five Illinois innovation hubs

Northern Illinois University in DeKalb will use funds from the state to build the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability on the university’s west campus. (Photo courtesy of NIU)

The governor’s office has released $37.3 million to launch facilities for five hubs of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), created to accelerate job creation and economic growth through groundbreaking education, research, and discovery.

The funding is made possible by the Rebuild Illinois Capital program, with state investments matched dollar for dollar through university, private, and philanthropic funding sources.

“Rebuild Illinois isn’t just about modernizing our roads and bridges—it’s about building a future for generations to come that is economically prosperous with the promise of opportunity at every turn,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton added, “We can come together to build the pathways that will uplift young people and communities across Illinois and pave the way to a bright future.This funding will ensure our institutions of higher education that already make a tremendous impact have the tools to prepare the next generation, so they may access economic opportunities and be part of the innovation that drives Illinois forward.”

Funding will support the construction and renovation of facilities at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), Northern Illinois University (NIU), Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) and the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS).

The Illinois Capital Development Board (CDB) will oversee the projects’ design and construction in accordance with the protocol for state-appropriated projects.

Jim Underwood

The IIN operates as a network of networks, connecting entities across Illinois to drive inclusive and integrated research, innovation, and economic development. Hubs utilize a combination of research, public-private partnerships, entrepreneurship, and workforce training programs to spur inclusive economic development in their region and across the state.

IIN is projected to create or fill 48,000 new-economy jobs over the decade following completion of construction, according to an economic impact study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group. In all, the initiatives are expected to have an economic impact of $19 billion over the 10 years following construction, a return of nearly 40 times the original state investment.

“The Capital Development Board is eager to provide construction for several of Illinois’ premier universities,” said Capital Development Board Executive Director, Jim Underwood. “Investing in higher education ensures we are providing new facilities and campus upgrades that create an elevated learning experience for Illinois students.

The released funding is the latest installment from $500 million in state capital funds approved by Pritzker and the legislature to develop the statewide education and innovation network, which is led by the University of Illinois System.

  • NEIU will create the Business Growth and Innovation Center by using $2.5 million in state funding to renovate the Carruthers Center and the Parking Facility. The center will provide economic development opportunities to underrepresented and underserved communities, including discovery and commercialization of research, entrepreneurship and workforce development.
  • NIU will launch the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability to create new knowledge, inform policymaking and inspire action related to food systems innovation, water resources and environmental change. The state is providing $15 million to build the 30,000-square-foot facility on the university’s west campus.
  • The former home of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association in downtown Springfield will become the Innovation Center for the University of Illinois Springfield campus. The purchase of the building was finalized on Nov. 18. (Photo courtesy of UIS)

  • At SIUC, the university will use $2.5 million in state funds to renovate the McLafferty Annex and launch the Illinois Food, Entrepreneurship, Research, and Manufacturing (iFERM) hub. The renovations will include a teaching kitchen and sensory lab, fermented dairy facility and fermented beverage facility for the hub that will solve food/nutrition, agriculture, and health challenges through transdisciplinary research, innovation, and education while providing the infrastructure for development of Illinois agriculture value-added products.
  • SIUE will use $2.3 million in state funds to renovate spaces in the Technology and Management Center, and the Biotechnology Laboratory Incubator to launch the Center for Sustainable Communities and Entrepreneurship (CSCE). The center will harness multiple university assets to convert discovery into economic opportunity while addressing research, workforce and economic development needs in Metro-East Illinois.
  • UIS will use $15 million in state funds to purchase and renovate the former Illinois Sheriffs Association building in downtown Springfield. The purchase was finalized on Nov. 18 and design work on the renovation will begin soon. The facility will house the UIS Innovation Center, which will include the Innovate Springfield incubator, as well as activities and programs that support the development of evidence- based, impact-driven programs aimed at advancing the social and economic welfare of the region.