Grant could make state an innovation hub

URBANA – A budding research facility linked to the University of Illinois is leading the push for a $70 million federal grant that could help make the state a major player in manufacturing innovation.

The White House said last year it wanted to make $1 billion available for up to 15 institutes nationwide for what it called for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Youngstown, Ohio, was selected as the first hub.

Now, UI Labs, a nonprofit research group backed by the U of I, the state and the city of Chicago, is working to submit a proposal for the grant that would make Illinois another hub, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported Saturday.

In May, the Obama administration announced competitions for three new institutes, one of which is the project the Illinois group is vying for – digital manufacturing and design innovation.

UI Labs, which intends to foster partnerships between researchers and corporations, filed for incorporation earlier this year. The group is expected to be headquartered in Chicago.

Those submitting proposals must match federal money with comparable industry investment, which can also be in the form of equipment and other forms of support, said Larry Schook, who is on UI Labs’ board of directors.

Stitching together a coalition of partners for the project hasn’t been easy, he said.

“There’s the complexity of bringing industry, government and universities – it’s just a new world order,” he said.

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