State Grant Could Advance Peoria, Ill.’s Innovation Work

The Peoria Innovation Hub, announced Thursday, would focus on improving the wellness of poor, rural and elderly populations with advances in systems related to food, farming and transportation, with an emphasis on autonomous mobility.

by Matt Buedel, Journal Star / December 21, 2018
Peoria, Ill. (FlickrCC/Roger W)

(TNS) — A Downtown facility will join a network of similar research-oriented developments across the state engineering solutions to a wide variety of problems facing underserved populations — if a grant from the state materializes.

The Peoria Innovation Hub would be part of the Illinois Innovation Network, an initiative under the University of Illinois System that has already announced plans for similar hubs in Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, Springfield and DeKalb.

The Peoria facility — announced Thursday by founding partners OSF HealthCare, the U of I System, Illinois Central College and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council — would focus on improving the wellness of poor, rural and elderly populations with advances in systems related to food, farming and transportation, with an emphasis on autonomous mobility.

"Innovation has always been the cornerstone of our region — in agriculture, manufacturing, and now health care," said Christopher Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. "Innovation is also our future. The hub will be a great part of that future. It would inspire entrepreneurs with problems to solve, equip them with the tools they need to solve them, and support them in turning solutions into businesses."

The groups are working together to secure funding from a $500 million capital appropriation approved last spring by the Illinois General Assembly to develop the network. The grant would renovate about 53,000 square feet of floor space at 201 SW Adams St., which was recently vacated by Illinois Central College and is across the street from the future home of OSF HealthCare's new headquarters in the former Chase Bank Building.

The other proposed centers would focus on fields such as data science, cybersecurity, therapeutic drugs, food and water resources, and environmental change, all under the umbrella of the Discovery Partners Institute in Chicago. OSF HealthCare became the institute's first corporate partner earlier this year with the creation of the OSF Innovation Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the institute already is working with OSF's Complex Solutions Innovation Team.

"OSF HealthCare recognizes the importance of innovation in improving the health of the communities we serve," said OSF HealthCare CEO Robert Sehring. "It is our hope that working with the Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network will only help improve the health of and health care options for all Illinoisans."

The Peoria Innovation Hub would be located in a federally designated opportunity zone, which offers tax benefits and other incentives to help startups seeking early stage investment and venture capital.

The hub's preliminary design features co-working space to maximize interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as tools and equipment for digital and mechanical makerspaces, a rooftop greenhouse and virtual classroom connections to create one University of Illinois EnterpriseWorks Satellite Location.

"In today's world, innovation is the key to progress, prosperity and an even better tomorrow," said Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System. "The Illinois Innovation Network reflects our commitment to bring the world's very best minds together and put them to work for people here in Peoria, across our state and beyond."

If funding is approved, the Peoria Innovation Hub could be open by mid- to late-2020.

©2018 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.