Innovation Hub Intended for Downtown Peoria
OSF HealthCare, the University of Illinois System, Illinois Central College, and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council are joining forces to develop a Peoria Innovation Hub. Having already identified space in the Thomas Building at 201 SW Adams Street that was recently vacated by Illinois Central College, the hub will be dedicated to finding solutions to improve the wellness of underserved populations, and advance systems related to food, farming, and transportation – specifically autonomous mobility.
The Peoria Innovation Hub will be part of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a statewide initiative led by the U of I System to foster the breakthrough research discovery and entrepreneurship that drives progress, job creation and economic growth. Other hubs are being developed across the state, including research centers that have already been announced in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, Springfield, and DeKalb. Those centers will focus on discovery in critical and growing fields such as data science, cybersecurity, therapeutic drugs, food and water resources, and environmental change.
The cornerstone of the network is the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), a world-class research and education center that will bring hundreds of top researchers and thousands of students to Chicago to work with industry and government to tackle real-world challenges. Earlier this year, OSF HealthCare became the first corporate partner in DPI with the creation of the OSF Innovation Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). DPI classes are already working with OSF’s Complex Solutions Innovation team to address key questions around serving the poor, rural, and elderly patient populations in Illinois.
Working collaboratively, a comprehensive proposal and application has been prepared to secure funding from the $500 million capital appropriation that the Illinois General Assembly approved last spring to develop DPI and the statewide innovation network. The Peoria Innovation Hub will essentially reimagine the city’s opportunities for entrepreneurs, students, innovators, creators, and residents. The hub will encompass nearly 53,000 square feet and function as a springboard for new companies and a place where members of the community can collaborate with innovators and bring creative solutions to challenges facing healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture. If successful, these funds will be used to acquire and redevelop the Thomas Building.
Located within Peoria’s federally designated Opportunity Zone, the Peoria Innovation Hub will offer tax benefits allowing potential business startups to leverage incentives to attract early stage and venture capital.
“OSF HealthCare recognizes the importance of innovation in improving the health of the communities we serve. 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,” said OSF HealthCare CEO Robert Sehring.
“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.”
“Peoria provides a unique opportunity to combine academic and community resources to spur economic development,” said Sara Rusch, regional dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria. “All three universities in the University of Illinois System are engaged in Peoria – UIC through the College of Medicine, Urbana-Champaign through the College of Engineering’s work with Jump, and the University of Illinois at Springfield with its master’s and degree completion programs. In addition, we have important assets in Illinois Central College and Bradley University. Leveraging these resources with those of our healthcare systems, manufacturing sectors and other components of our economy provides Peoria with wonderful opportunities. The IIN will help unite these resources behind discreet projects.”
“As the workforce innovation partner, ICC would engage in agricultural research with area farmers and students in addition to integrating workforce development programs in manufacturing and healthcare. Our efforts will leverage these advances by aligning these innovations with workforce credentials providing family sustaining opportunities to our community,” said ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey.
“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.”
“OSF HealthCare is committed to doing its part to help design a better future,” said Michelle Conger, chief strategy officer for OSF HealthCare. “Core to our mission, we understand the value of fresh perspectives and seek to work with innovators outside our walls to maximize solutions that bring value to our patients and communities.”
Co-working is expected to be a central feature of the proposed hub, in order to maximize productive collaboration across all disciplines within the building. Some elements being considered include:
- Makerspace with machinery: Facilities for manufacturing prototypes with equipment such as lathes, drill presses and laser cutters, plus equipment for 3D printing and modeling for artistic- and fashion-related disciplines.
- Digital makerspace: Virtual reality software and simulation devices that would build on the advances within OSF HealthCare and the city’s simulation, gaming and virtual reality innovation groups.
- Computing infrastructure: Cloud computing, server architecture, and data integration would allow for creation of advanced applications to fuel creative pathways including artificial intelligence (AI) to expand information management and analytics.
- The University of Illinois EnterpriseWorks Satellite Location: Science and technology entrepreneurs would have space with a virtual classroom to connect with the U of I System’s three universities and regional satellite campuses.
- A rooftop greenhouse to experiment with urban farming and hydroponic techniques. A commercial kitchen for piloting a food pharmacy and restaurant concept testing, along with new and different food preparation methods. Classrooms for conventional courses for new entrepreneurs and students from higher education partners and the community.
- Office space and conference rooms for entrepreneurs, startups, and satellite offices for larger corporations that want to access resources of the DPI and IIN.
“It is essential that plans for economic growth include opportunities to strengthen vulnerable communities that have been divested in. The Peoria Innovation Hub will help diverse entrepreneurs improve health care delivery and reduce food insecurity in underserved neighborhoods,” said state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria.
“A Peoria Innovation Hub of the Illinois Innovation Network will have enormous economic potential for the Peoria region. It's fulfilling to see this mission – with its own facility in Peoria – come closer to reality after so much hard work. It is exciting to know our innovators and entrepreneurs could have access to some of the greatest minds in our country,” said state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria. “OSF, as one of our region's fundamental economic drivers, deserves high praise for stepping up to champion this initiative.”
“Peoria has a long history of groundbreaking research and development. The Innovation Hub will build on our regional strengths of healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture in order to deliver new jobs and startup companies that will strengthen the Illinois economy,” added state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria.
If the necessary funding is approved, the Peoria Innovation Hub could be physically set up and open by mid-to-late-2020.