May 15, 2019

SIU joins the economy-building Illinois Innovation Network

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale, long a leader in spurring innovation, entrepreneurship and development, is one of the newest members of a statewide group of hubs created to boost the state’s economy through research and innovation.

SIU is part of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a group that now includes 15 hubs, spanning the entire state and including all Illinois public four-year universities. The hubs will collaborate and could have access to capital funding in order to grow economies across the state.

“The newly established Illinois Innovation Network will provide significant opportunities to our campus – the southernmost hub in the state,” SIU Carbondale Chancellor John M. Dunn said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to leverage our signature programs and our research enterprise in collaboration with our partners throughout Illinois.

SIU’s focus

SIU Carbondale is establishing the Illinois Food, Entrepreneurship, Research and Manufacturing Hub to address via interdisciplinary research and education the challenges the region faces related to food, nutrition, agriculture and health. The hub will also provide the infrastructure to develop agricultural value-added products, which in turn will promote and support successful entrepreneurial activities.

Essentially, one of the primary goals is to find new and different ways to utilize Illinois agricultural products and help them successfully reach the market. The hub will provide new economic and entrepreneurial opportunities and facilitate the development of value-added food, beverage and medicinal products.

How it began

The IIN launched in August 2018, led by the University of Illinois System and with hubs at the system’s three institutions, as well as at the Discovery Partners Institute (CPI) in downtown Chicago. A couple of other institutions joined later last year and nine new hubs, including SIU Carbondale, joined the IIN this week. Now, all of the state’s public universities are involved, each having its own specific focus.

The hubs will work with DPI to foster research innovation to spur progress and economic growth. Collaborations between the various hubs will take place as well. Last year the Illinois legislature approved $500 million in capital funds for DPI and the IIN and all of the hubs will be eligible to seek funding authorized this year.

The DPI is a research center led by the U of I System and it will eventually house thousands of students and more than 100 top researchers. They will work with the hubs as well as with academic, business and technology partners around the world to spur discoveries which will spark innovation, economic growth and prosperity.

The hubs will participate in DPI programming and collaborations and the DPI researchers and students will work with the hubs in educational, research and outreach activities.

“It is very exciting to see how our state’s public universities are working together through the Illinois Innovation Network, and how they are putting innovation at the forefront of their agenda,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said. “We have so much potential if we just work together, and today’s announcement shows me that our universities are committed to that. They are our state’s key pillars of innovation and talent production, and I look forward to seeing the even greater impact they can have on Illinois’ economy through the IIN.”

Diverse concepts

Each of the 15 partner hubs will have a unique focus. Topics to be addressed include solutions for urban populations, manufacturing, health care workforce shortages, and much more.

“These new hubs fulfill the guiding vision of the Illinois Innovation Network, spreading the power of innovation to every corner of our state through partnerships with every one of our state’s public universities and other important regional partners,” Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System, said. “The growing network will bring together the very best minds to address our most pressing challenges, forging breakthrough solutions that will drive new waves of progress and prosperity for all of Illinois and beyond.”

More about SIU economic development

In conjunction with SIU becoming part of the IIN, the university’s business and community development outreach office has a new name – the Office of Innovation and Economic Development (OIED). Founded 33 years ago, the office has long supported regional entrepreneurship, innovation, enterprise development and expansion and job creation.

To learn more about the many programs and services offered by OIED, as well as the impact of SIU becoming an IIN member, call 618/536-4451 or email