Plans were unveiled for the Discovery Partners Institute and a public-private partnership between research universities, companies and municipalities that hopes to serve every corner of Illinois. Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel support the development and initiative, and hopes it attracts and keeps innovation within the state.
The sprawling DPI campus in the South Loop aims to serve as a center for specialized research in technology, agriculture, healthcare and more by bringing together faculty, students and companies from University of Illinois, University of Chicago and Northwestern University, said Rauner during an announcement at the future site of the project Thursday morning.
DPI is the first step in the development of a larger initiative, the Illinois Innovation Network which will connect businesses, the public sector and research universities to communities all over Illinois including Peoria, Rockford and Springfield.
The University of Illinois-led DPI will be developed on a donated portion of a 62-acre site owned by Related Midwest. The plans for that site also involve an expansive mixed-use project with residential, commercial and academic developments. The master plan for The 78, which refers to the creation of Chicago’s 78th neighborhood, was designed in partnership with Related by architecture firm, Skidmore Owings & Merrill.
The renderings from SOM include depictions of a tree-lined riverwalk pathway with ample seating and a courtyard of fountains, modern glass buildings overlooking the Chicago River, landscaped parks, sidewalk cafes, bike paths and art installations.
“The 78 will provide students, faculty and corporate partners with a world-class setting in which they can live, study and work – ultimately pairing graduates with high-quality jobs within the immediate neighborhood as leading employers establish a presence there,” Curt Bailey said in a statement. “By fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and creating an urban experience unlike any other in the country, our hope is that students, including those from out of state, will decide to remain in Chicago – and The 78 in particular – long after they finish their studies, in some cases starting their own business enterprises that will contribute to our city’s diverse economy.”
When fully operational the $1.2 billion DPI will have as many as 90 faculty members and about 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students. The institute plans to promote cutting-edge research and product development designed to solve challenges in the community.
“We hope this will be a spring board to help Illinois lead the way in seeds of progress and economic growth,” said Tim Killeen, University of Illinois System President.
The University of Illinois has a track record for innovation—Larry Ellison of Oracle, Mac Levchin of PayPal, Steve Chen and Hawed Karim of YouTube all attended the university. However, those companies did not fully remain in Chicago. Rauner and Emanuel both expressed the frustration of being a launching pad and hope DPI will create the next generation of innovators and keep them in Illinois.