DPI is an interdisciplinary public-private research institute that will bring world-class research staff and faculty to Chicago to work side-by-side with students and businesses. It will foster next-generation innovation that creates new business and economic growth, as well as promoting entrepreneurship and empowering inventors of the future. (Left: conceptual rendering)

DPI will serve not just Chicago, but the entire state and beyond. It will be the centerpiece of a virtually connected statewide enterprise known as the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). Through IIN, the institute’s world-class faculty and staff will leverage existing assets in other regions across the state and beyond as they work with university and business partners on research, education and innovation initiatives that help launch new companies and lift communities.

DPI is most similar to Cornell Tech in that it will be hiring new, world-class research faculty and staff to drive innovation. However, Cornell Tech focuses on engineering, whereas DPI will more broadly include fields such as healthcare, crop science and nutrition along with computing and engineering. Startup NY and UI LABS are quite different from DPI in that they are a business incentive program and technology accelerator, respectively, and do not exhibit the scale of faculty and student participation that are the central drivers of DPI.

UI LABS is a major component of the state’s growing innovation ecosystem. We expect that DPI will cooperate with UI LABS and with other existing innovation centers to intensify and foster discovery and entrepreneurship to serve our state.

A central component of DPI involves linking faculty, students and companies all in close proximity where they can literally work side-by-side at massive scale. Through that open model, they will carry out the full range of innovation from basic research to product development at a single location that will make Chicago a go-to destination for discovery. The DPI will operate at a much larger scale than existing efforts, with deeper connections to research and education activities because it brings together all three universities of the U of I System and partners to accelerate progress. DPI’s global visibility will greatly expand statewide interest in innovation, and its large dynamic faculty base will increase opportunities for businesses to collaborate with the world’s top researchers. It will accelerate Illinois’ total research capacity, building on the achievements of the Research Park at Urbana-Champaign, the Innovation Center at Chicago, and Innovate Springfield (iSPI), and working closely with the U of I ecosystem to spur innovation.

The Research Park and the Innovation Center provide strong examples of how industry can partner with universities to catalyze innovation. There are 110 companies located in the 200-acre Research Park that employ 2,000 employees. Interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students at the Innovation Center are actively engaged with global industry partners to drive innovation strategies and to develop innovative products and services. The multi-institution approach of DPI will build on these efforts.

DPI has been in a planning phase for more than a year, so the timing of the institute’s announcement and the recently released Amazon HQ2 RFP is coincidental. But the institute is referenced in the joint bid by the State of Illinois and City of Chicago to land the headquarters. And given Amazon’s interest in selecting a site that would supply a large pipeline of talent, there would be great synergy between DPI and Chicago’s HQ2 proposal.
Yes. U of I System Vice President for Economic Development & Innovation Edward Seidel, who will serve as interim director of DPI during a national search for a permanent director, will actively engage in creating an implementation plan for DPI that involves input and suggestions from local stakeholders on development of DPI and its programming.
DPI is intended to provide a broad focus on those three thematic areas to start, but the specific challenges will largely be defined by ongoing input from new and existing faculty members throughout the U of I System and at partner businesses and universities. The three thematic areas were selected because all are strengths of both the U of I System and the State of Illinois. Other thematic areas ultimately could be added as DPI evolves.
Interim DPI Director Seidel will be working to develop an implementation plan for DPI in the coming months. Curriculum will be defined in close collaboration with faculty across the U of I System and through shared governance processes. Initial plans call for undergraduate students to engage by spending one to four semesters at DPI, taking courses and either doing research with DPI faculty or interning with companies at DPI or elsewhere in Chicago. Graduate students may spend the bulk of their graduate career at DPI if their research advisor is based there. DPI curriculum will be designed so that students receive credit at their home institution. DPI is not a university and will not grant degrees. Students at DPI will receive their degree from their home institution.
Hiring plans will be developed as part of DPI’s implementation plan. Current faculty who participate in DPI as well as the new hires will hold appointments in existing colleges and departments within the U of I System – and not to DPI. Hiring will follow standard procedures at each university.
Once the DPI is fully operational, we expect it will employ up to 90 faculty and about 400 staff, for a total of nearly 500 employees.
Current faculty with expertise in the relevant areas will be closely involved in planning DPI curriculum and programming. They will have the opportunity to become DPI faculty and/or to participate either from their home universities or while on sabbatical.

A key output of DPI will be the talent and ideas required to start new companies. In addition, DPI will work in close partnership with the many existing assets in Chicago’s tech community to launch and grow new companies. The purpose of DPI is to significantly ramp up research discovery, creating new businesses that will expand opportunity. Through DPI, we intend to reverse a loss of talent from the state and attract new venture capital.

Through DPI, we intend to reverse a loss of talent from the state and attract new venture capital.

Based on our high-aspiration goals, we estimate that DPI will attract over $1 billion in corporate investment to Illinois in the first 15 years, catalyze $500 million in additional research funding annually, train about 10,000 new entrepreneurs every five years and stimulate $4 billion in annual venture capital investment – four times current levels. It also will support more than $300 million in private real estate investment in the first five years to accommodate housing for faculty and students.
Putting talented students in closer connection to Chicago companies will make those students more likely to accept offers from those companies than from companies out of state. At full operation, DPI will bring as many as 10,000 students to Chicago every five years, giving them first-hand exposure to Chicago, its vibrant business community and everything the city has to offer.

DPI is a University of Illinois System initiative. The institute will be governed by a board of directors, chaired by the U of I System president, which will include members representing the U of I universities, partnering universities, donors, businesses and the state and city. Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation Ed Seidel will serve as interim director.

Edward Seidel is the Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation for the University of Illinois System. As Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation, Dr. Seidel works closely with the president of the U of I System to engage potential public and private partners and strengthen the links between higher education, research, and business to drive innovation and stimulate economic development across the state of Illinois. He oversees the System’s commercialization pipeline that helps bring ideas to market, which includes the Offices of Technology Management at Urbana-Champaign and Chicago; the early-stage technology investment firm, IllinoisVENTURES; EnterpriseWorks, the business incubator in Urbana-Champaign; and the U of I Research Park.

Seidel is an award-winning researcher with a long record of leadership experience that includes three years as director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Urbana-Champaign, where he was among the original co-principal investigators for Blue Waters, a federally funded project that brought one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers to Urbana-Champaign. He is also a Founder Professor in the Department of Physics and a professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Computer Science, and at the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) at Urbana-Champaign.

DPI will partner with top universities that will provide faculty, students and programming expertise. The institute also will partner with businesses that will collaborate with DPI on research, and with internships and other student educational programs.

Nodes in the Illinois Innovation Network are effectively off-site innovation centers that will be created across the state to virtually connect other universities and businesses with DPI to pursue research and educational collaboration. Nodes are planned in all cities served by U of I System universities (Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield), and at or near the campuses of our founding partners – the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. We expect there to be additional nodes as we establish new partnerships in the coming months and years.
The announcement is the kickoff to begin work on a detailed implementation plan that then will be announced in 2018. The process will require extensive consultation with stakeholders, including U of I System faculty as well as city and state leaders, and will focus on site selection and the hiring process for DPI faculty, staff and a permanent director.
Plans are for the DPI to be built in downtown Chicago on land that will be donated by Chicago developer Related Midwest. The site at Roosevelt Road and Wells Street is part of a 62-acre parcel along the Chicago River. Related Midwest President Curt Bailey says DPI will help anchor a large-scale development on downtown Chicago’s largest undeveloped site. More than 10 million square feet of office, retail, hotel and residential space is planned, with development in several phases in an area bounded by Roosevelt Road on the north, 16th Street and Chinatown's Ping Tom Park to the south, the river to the west, and Metra tracks and Clark Street to the east.