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Q&A: University of Illinois President Tim Killeen on where and how Peoria fits into the Illinois Innovation Network

Tim Shelley

Distillery Labs is slated to open in the former ICC Thomas building in downtown Peoria next spring.

It's just one hub of the Illinois Innovation Network, organized under the University of Illinois umbrella. Tim Shelley speaks with U of I president Tim Killeen about I-I-N and how it'll play in Peoria.

TIM KILLEEN: We have 15 hubs. We call them ... the Illinois Innovation Network, which as you probably know, is now supported by the state appropriation to build out capital systems across the state. So there are 15 of those; 12 are in every public university has a specific hub.

Here in Peoria, it's another hub, but it's not specifically located in one public university. It's really a community initiative led predominantly by OSF and the Distillery Labs, and Bradley University and the partners that are here, Caterpillar and other players in this in this region.

And they have a very dynamic, very active action agenda that is exciting to see and understand. And of course, we want to support it at any way we can. And, and all of these hubs will be inter communicating with advanced cyber infrastructure, so that you can you can live, work and learn in a certain setting, but then connect and take advantage from the other parts of the network.

But Peoria has always an iconic hub here that we think is really in the lead in a leadership role in really cohering a large community of very collaborative institutions, and individuals that have come together, there's a sense of excitement of the meeting, we were out earlier today, and forward progress. That's remarkable to see and so we were all inspired.

TIM SHELLEY: Yeah. And obviously, medical is very big here in Peoria with our two big hospitals. And a big part of that is UICOMP, teaching the next generation of the doctors who are going to work in these hospitals, and also, you know, innovate new ways to treat people, keep people healthy. Tell me a little bit about how UICOMP fits in.

TIM KILLEEN: Exactly, of course, we have a medical school here in Peoria that has been here for a long time and is thriving as well with expanded physical facilities.

And we just came from there and had a meeting with the senior staff and the dean, and so forth, and had a wonderful set of presentations about their strategic vision for the future. We saw pictures of the 65 young people, mostly young, coming in to be (the) next generation of doctors and and most of them had, by far the majority of them are from Illinois. So this is a real down payment on public health in this state, and in this region that we're seeing actively.

And then we had a visit with OSF and they're (doing) exciting work in cancer and oncology treatments. All of this plays really well together. And our College of Medicine is in a growth mode and deeply interacting with the other medical elements here. And with the responsibility in a role in urban health, regional health, rural health, writ large, and with a very strong research enterprise as well, that touches on many of the aspects.

I'm particularly excited by community health and understanding, you know, the issues of aging and population health issues. They're all very strong here. And it's a wonderful collaborative setting as well, in that medical district.

TIM SHELLEY: With Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network hubs across the state, where do you see this being 10 years in the future?

TIM KILLEEN: So, you're asking me to dream a little bit. I think you've got the East Coast, and the West Coast that have created a lot of innovation, a lot of companies, a lot of wealth generation. The middle part of the country, the Midwest, which is led by a state called Illinois, can can show the world how to do innovation that is about prosperity, about wealth generation and social equity development, so that we open the doors wide.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.