Springfield, Urbana-Champaign Picked for Illinois Innovation Hubs

The Springfield hub will connect to the Discovery Partners Institute in Chicago.

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Officials have picked sites at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus and in Springfield to become part of a Chicago-based high-tech innovation center.

The University of Illinois Springfield recently acquired Innovate Springfield, a downtown business and innovation incubator, to house the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network. The Springfield hub will connect to the Discovery Partners Institute in Chicago.

The Springfield hub decision comes months after Illinois lawmakers awarded the University of Illinois system $500 million in state money to build DPI and to establish hubs across the state. DPI is the centerpiece of the innovation network, which aims to accelerate economic growth in Illinois through research and innovation.

University of Illinois Springfield also will receive $1.5 million in funding from the university system and local community partners over three years to expand programs that support startups and entrepreneurs.

The announcement last week was followed by related news that the university system's Urbana-Champaign campus will turn one of its buildings into a new institute as part of the network. Illini Hall will be replaced with a research facility focused on statistics, data analysis and machine learning, according to university officials.

University President Tim Killeen told state lawmakers that data sciences would be the focus of the DPI hub at the Urbana campus.

Officials say the network can help cities around the state retain and grow local talent.

"We continue to have young people get their education in Illinois and leave, particularly when it relates to technology and research and innovation," said Republican U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood. "And this is going to help to stop that, to provide an opportunity for people here in Springfield or Champaign or in Peoria to work in collaboration with the DPI in Chicago and keep our homegrown students in Illinois."

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