The Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), in partnership with Governors State University, receives one of the first ever National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) awards to lead the Advancing Smart Logistics (ASL) team in an effort to lay the foundation to make Illinois one of the nation’s most advanced transportation and logistics hubs.
Led by GSU and the IIN, Advancing Smart Logistics engages key partners including higher education institutions, private corporations, and non-profit organizations. The IIN, which is led by the University of Illinois System, is a group of 15 university-based hubs across the state working to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development. Funded ASL partners/sub-recipients include Olive-Harvey College, City Colleges of Chicago, Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Western Illinois University. Other partners include Chicago State University, Discovery Partners Institute, Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois Springfield, Distillery Labs, the lllinois Community College Board, Ahern Investment & Development, Corn Belt Ports, LLC, ConGlobal Industries LLC, Hanson Professional Services, Inc., Lanco International Inc., Mobility Illinois, mHub, OAI, Inc., PepsiCo, Inc., Southern Company Gas (Nicor Inc.), Tandem Development Group, LLC, Riverside Global, Valqari LLC, Wintrust Commercial Finance, and World Business Chicago.
The $1 million NSF Engines Development Award supports GSU and its partner organizations through a two-year planning phase to create connections and develop local innovation ecosystems, with the goal of preparing a strong proposal to become an NSF Engine and receive up to $160 million to positively impact Illinois’ economy, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges and ensure equity for those in underserved communities, advance national competitiveness, and create good-paying, local jobs.
“Advancing Smart Logistics is a transformative project centered around innovation and supporting the creation of greater societal, economic, and technological success for our state,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. “Illinois is a nation-leading hub for technology and progress, and this NSF Engines Development Award will further advance partnerships across sectors, organizations, and educational institutions.”
ASL is among the more than 40 unique teams to receive one of the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards, which aim to help partners collaborate to create economic, societal, and technological opportunities for their regions.
ASL will build an equitable economic development around advances in transportation logistics, including automation of middle-mile freight trucking systems, deployment of drones and electric vehicles, and regionalizing inland waterway freight and Corn Belt ports. It also will identify strategies for reskilling and upskilling individuals whose career paths are disrupted by automation, while ensuring that workers in local and sub-regional economies can attain long-term participation in new and existing industries.
The NSF Engines program is a transformational investment for the nation, ensuring the U.S. remains in the vanguard of competitiveness for decades to come. The awardees span a broad range of states and regions, reaching geographic areas that have not fully benefited from the technology boom of the past decades.
“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”