The core of economic growth in Illinois and across America is innovation and technology. It’s driving job growth and economic activity in every sector of our economy. In manufacturing, in agriculture, in distribution, in health care, in every sector of the economy. We are so fortunate here in the great state of Illinois—we have one of the greatest research and teaching universities of anywhere in the world in the University of Illinois. And world class research and teaching universities are the foundation for innovation and technological advancement. What do companies PayPal, YouTube, Yelp, Match.com, Tesla Motors, Seibel Systems, Oracle Systems, some of the largest, most successful companies in the world have in common? They were founded by University of Illinois alumni.
Our number one goal must be to have the University of Illinois expand its impact, expand its opportunities, here within the state of Illinois, so its students, its faculty, its researchers, its entrepreneurs, have an opportunity to build their businesses here –in downtown Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, Rockford, Peoria, Springfield—and we can do this. We can do this by creating a network of collaboration between the University of Illinois and two other of our greatest universities in the world for research and innovation: The University of Chicago and Northwestern University. If we bring all three together in a network of collaboration, joint research, sharing of faculty, sharing of ideas, sharing of students, and make sure that our students and our faculty are in the ecosystem—within the business community—we will drive a transformation of the Illinois economy that is unparalleled in our history.
Chicago has the five Ts of investment strategy: talent, training, transportation, technology, and transparency. We have more universities than any other city in the United States, but Boston. And when you draw a radius around the city of a couple hundred miles, we have more Level I universities than not only any other city in the United States but the world. And the biggest thing holding back the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois was the 200 miles between Chicago and Champaign. We just narrowed that today.
I see this as a big win for the city of Chicago and a big loss for the west coast. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve come together and saw what we all know was important for the city of Chicago and for the state of Illinois—that we’re tired of being the intellectual and research foundation for everything else that then gets moved back [west]. This is a tremendous building effort that builds on a strong foundation and takes it to the next level. These intellectual foundations are the beginning and the next effort, not only for corporations, but the next ideas that will create the new companies that will take Chicago and the economy to another level. And with our capacity, intellectually, economically, and culturally, the world will come to Chicago to discover what’s next.
You may know that today there are 77 neighborhoods in Chicago. We are excited to be building the next great neighborhood here: the 78. It’s our vision for a blank urban canvas to be Chicago’s next great neighborhood. Under this master plan, created by our company, the 78th will be a dynamic combination of residential, commercial, academic, civic, cultural, and recreational space. And all 62 acres of this will be infused with Chicago soul. Today, we’re thrilled to welcome the 78’s first resident: the Discovery Partners Institute. A state-of-the-art innovation and entrepreneurship hub that will connect Illinois students with world-class faculty, corporations, and venture capitalists in the heart of this global city.
The 78 is the perfect place to lay the foundation for partnerships that, in funding research and nurturing a skilled workforce, will help launch next-generation companies and catalyze economic growth throughout Illinois.
When shaping young minds, it’s important we go beyond teaching children the same formulas, material, and languages that we were taught. We need to be preparing them for a future where curiosity and creativity will be rewarded and where failure is not condemned, but rather encouraged. And provide them with the necessary tools to be successful in this exciting new time of technology and discovery.
To be able to bring a pioneering institution of research and workforce development like the DPI to a next-generation neighborhood like the 78 is a dream come true for me and all my partners at Related Midwest. We are so grateful to invest in a project that aligns with our key values of collaboration, innovation, leadership, and community. Related Midwest is committed to supporting Illinois’ vibrant tech community and thrilled to partner with the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University to invest in the next great innovation hub at the 78. It’s an honor to develop this facility with the U of I and partner institutions to be a catalyst for groundbreaking research and education that will motivate young minds and create new opportunities in a rapidly evolving technological world. In connecting students and recent college graduates with employers here in the 78 and throughout Chicago, everyone wins. Businesses that call Chicago home will have unprecedented access to the highly skilled workforce coming out of our state’s top academic institutions, and those young professionals will find quality, high-paying jobs that will keep them here in Illinois, in Chicago, and ultimately in this first of its kind urban neighborhood.
These outside-the-box initiatives are yet another example that the University of Illinois System never stops reaching even higher to serve the ever-changing needs of students and the public good. Together, they will build on the already world-class faculty across our three great universities, fostering the breakthrough discovery and spirit of entrepreneurship that are keys to the next-generation innovation that fuels progress and economic growth. DPI and IIN reflect the unwavering commitment to a better tomorrow for our students and society that the U of I System has carried since its founding 150 years ago, a milestone that we are proudly celebrating this year. The board has been tracking the development of this exciting new venture closely for many months, and is excited that our universities in Urbana-Champaign, Springfield and Chicago will all benefit from enhanced investment in upstate and downstate locations as well as new opportunities for students and faculty.
Caterpillar and the University of Illinois have a long and productive history, including our recent strategic alliance focused on sustainability, innovation and economic growth. Together, our many collaborations have benefitted our company and our global customers as well as the University system and the state of Illinois. We are pleased to congratulate the University on the launch of this latest research and innovation endeavor.
Private equity investing requires that we identify the keys to a future successful company. If I were looking at the U of I and the DPI and its chance of future success – almost as I would look at a company – it clearly has those keys to success. It has expertise, with a long legacy of achievement in education and research that has produced alumni-founded companies such as Pay Pal and YouTube and pioneering innovation from the Mosaic internet browser to night vision goggles. It has a rich culture of partnerships, working across disciplines and with academic and industry partners around the world to foster the collaboration and outside-the-box thinking that is critical to solve our society's most vexing challenges.
There is no better place to build a tech company than right here in Chicago. The talent, the people, the city, the culture, the access, are simply unparalleled. And now we get to add to that list of unique attributes—a world-class engineering school and campus right here on this site to help produce the next generation of technical talent that this city and nation so desperately needs.
At OSF, innovation has become central to our mission and strategic goals. Our innovation efforts focus on four areas: advancing simulation, more for those with less, radical access to care, and aging in place. The Illinois Innovation Network’s health and wellness theme will advance innovation in these four areas and even more. The Discovery Partners Institute will bring hundreds of the best minds from academia and the private sector together with thousands of brilliant students to solve problems in interdisciplinary teams and create life-changing products. [It] will serve as a magnet for investors across the nation, while generating the ideas and educating the entrepreneurs that will seed now companies that will find their home in places like Peoria, Rockford, and Chicago.
As a member-owned company, [Blue Cross Blue Shield] has always combined technology and good old-fashioned customer service to serve our 15 million members. With over 18,000 employees, we are the beneficiaries of home-grown, world-class educated talent right here in our backyard. Last year, in fact, we hired over 1,000 people in the state of Illinois. More than half of them were U of I graduates. These new employees are our future, and we know our need for talent will only continue to grow.
I commend the governor, the mayor, and President Killeen as well as the other leaders of higher education institutions here today for their foresight and for making all of this possible for one of Chicago’s greatest companies. Their actions demonstrate, yet again, why Illinois is such a great place to live, work, and conduct business.
I am so excited to be standing here at the site of the 78 and DPI because I see nothing but innovation and opportunity for the next wave of diverse professionals. This site provides so many resources and so much opportunity to diverse talent: more research, internships, and opportunities with a direct connection to local companies. It helps small businesses like myself to connect and fill the pipeline with more quality and diverse talent.
Back in 2015, I met my co-founder at a hack-a-thon weekend. I was a farm kid from the south quad, and my co-founder was an engineering student from the north quad. Opposite backgrounds, and we met, all by chance, in this environment completely designed for this purpose: to connect folks across disciplines, backgrounds, and locations on new idea generation and solutions based on technology. I’m a firm believer that you can foster that kind of innovation if you get the right people in the right room at the right time. It’s what the University of Illinois has been distinct in doing, and I really see that mission being extended with what could potentially happen here.
This is what the post-educational path will look like for students who engage in start-ups right out of the gate: Launch at Illinois. Go global. Connect to the coast. Connect through Chicago. Collaborate in Champaign. Collaborate in Chicago. Collaborate in farms in Havana, Illinois. I’m really excited that this institute will have an agriculture ambition to it. Earlier this week, I had a reach out from a colleague overseas, and he told me he’d be in Chicago for about 8 hours and wanted to know where we could meet. Perhaps a few years down the line, I’ll say “Let’s meet at DPI, the river quad of the University of Illinois.”
Statements excerpted from remarks made on October 17, 2017. View video of DPI announcement here.