Illinois’ top Democratic leaders call a $70 million federal grant awarded to the UI Labs initiative a ‘game changer’ for how manufacturing is handled in the U.S.
The grant from the Department of Defense will help fund a Chicago-based digital manufacturing facility. It will be matched by more than $250 million from more than 700 industrial partners.
Those partners are with UI Labs, a public-private partnership led by the University of Illinois that includes not only industry, but others Midwest schools like Northwestern University.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says it wouldn’t have happened without mutual backing from those across the political aisle.
“Senator Mark Kirk, my Republican colleague, and the entire delegation were behind this. I don’t think there’s any partisanship in creating new jobs through innovative approaches. The president’s leadership gave us this opportunity, and on a bipartisan basis we followed through,” Durbin said.
UI Labs Interim Executive Director Caralynn Nowinski says the Chicago digital hub will take advantage of partners outside Chicago, like Peoria-based Caterpillar and Quad Cities-based Deere and Company, setting up similar facilities elsewhere.
“Be able to partner together to respond to specific calls for proposals to solve manufacturing problems… and then be able to incubate and innovate on those ideas, and bring them into the marketplace through commercialization support efforts,” Nowinski said.
The manufacturing lab was unveiled as part of Governor Pat Quinn’s 2013 State of the State speech.
The project also includes $16 million dollars in state funding.