1/25/2013 1:55:00 PM U of I looking to keep top minds in Illinois
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — A planned public-private research laboratory in Chicago could serve as a job creator for the region and a magnet to draw and keep smart, well-educated people in Illinois, a University Illinois official involved in the project said Thursday.
Larry Schook is vice president for research at the planned UI Labs. He told university trustees at a meeting in Chicago about plans for the lab that would link the university, the city of Chicago, the state’s government and ideally major companies.
“We need to have a vehicle for being the best and brightest,” Schook said. “It draws on the idea of the best and brightest and it would go without the typical restraints of an academic environment. Agility and response are critical.”
The research institute has been discussed among university and government officials for months but never officially presented to university trustees, who would eventually have to sign off on it.
The lab’s planners see it as a sort of Silicon Valley or Bell Labs, where the laser and the transistor were developed, for Chicago.
UI Labs would be incorporated as a private non-profit and would have a budget of up to $100 million in five years, and include the work of may University of Illinois professors and students. The money would have to come from grants, donors and outside organizations involved in the research.
The idea has the endorsement of Gov. Pat Quinn, whose position includes a seat on the board of trustees.
At Tuesday’s meeting, he said he hopes UI Labs’ focus includes a place for agriculture and related fields.
“I would hope UI Labs will really focus on sustainability,” Quinn said, adding later that that includes “not only feeding the world, but fueling the world and healing the world.”
Schook said those areas are part of the plan.
But the most promising area for early research, Schook said, may be manufacturing. The state is at the heart of Midwest manufacturing, still a major job provider even after well-documented declines of the past 40-plus years and a point of strength during the ongoing recovery from the last recession.
“Manufacturing seems to be, if you will, ripe,” Schook said. “We have a rich history of manufacturing, we have a supply chain.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also backs the plan but was not at Thursday’s meeting.
UI Labs officials also hope to include links to other research universities such as Northwestern University in their plan and have met with some of them.