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Peoria Innovation Hub Formally Kicks Off

Tim Shelley / WCBU
The current ICC Thomas Building in Downtown Peoria is set to become the Peoria Innovation Hub.

The Peoria Innovation Hub formally kicked off Monday in downtown Peoria. 

The hub is a project of the Illinois Innovation Network and an affiliate of the Discovery Partners Institute. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was on hand for the kickoff at the old ICC Thomas Building.

Credit Tim Shelley / WCBU
Governor J.B. Pritzker speaks Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, at a press conference in Peoria announcing the formal kickoff of the Peoria Innovation Hub.

“I really believe that Peoria has a shot of being the central city for the Midwest, to show that anywhere in the Midwest, anywhere if you do it right, anywhere can become a leader in technology and innovation," he said.

The governor said he's a firm believer in public-private partnerships like DPI/IIN to spur economic development.

The Peoria Innovation Hub's stated mission is to improve the well-being of underserved populations through research in healthcare, food, agriculture, and autonomous vehicle research. Currently, the University of Illinois is raising $10 million specifically for the development of the Peoria Innovation Hub. 

The Peoria project is a collaborative between the University of Illinois, Illinois Central College, OSF HealthCare and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. Fourteen other hubs will be located throughout the state -- each with different specialties. 

Bob Sehring is the CEO of OSF HealthCare. He says in OSF’s experience, the proposed model works to spark innovation. 

“One thing that we’ve learned from bringing the Jump Center and bringing different disciplines together, quite frankly, that’s where the magic happens," he said.

The Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center in Peoria is the base of OSF Innovation. 

OSF’s new headquarters will be across the street from the Peoria Innovation Hub, and only a couple blocks from Caterpillar’s former world headquarters. 

OSF was the Illinois Innovation Network’s first corporate sponsor. 

Dr. Ed Sidell, the vice president for economic development and innovation with the University of Illinois System, hopes the Illinois Innovation Network’s 15 hubs not only help stop the state’s brain drain, but also attract new talent from other states. 

“We want to dramatically increase the amount of entrepreneurship. So all of the students from all of our hubs will be able to be trained in entrepreneurship," Sidell said. "And then also to provide additional venture capital to support their development of businesses that can then grow and flourish in their own communities, as well - not just going to Chicago.” 

But he said the IIN's mothership, the Discovery Partners Institute in Chicago, belongs to everyone in Illinois. Sidell said it will provide semester or year-long world-class opportunities from students across the state, who can then take those skills back to their own communities. 

Officials declined to pinpoint an opening date for the formal opening of the Peoria Innovation Hub. This year's state budget provided $500 million for hubs statewide. The University of Illinois system is also fundraising $500 million in private donations. 

The Peoria Innovation Hub was first announced last December. 

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.