CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois Board of Trustees today transferred oversight of the University of Illinois Research Park from the U. of I. System to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Trustees approved the Research Park in 1999 and authorized the University of Illinois Research Park LLC in 2000 as the formal entity to develop and operate research parks in support of the university’s economic development mission. On the endorsement of President Tim Killeen and Urbana campus Chancellor Robert Jones, the limited liability company’s Board of Managers voted in October to recommend that the Board of Trustees change the legal entity’s scope to focus solely on the Research Park in Urbana-Champaign.
With its vote today at its bimonthly meeting on the Springfield campus, the board of trustees completed the transfer.
“This will make our campus an even stronger contributor to the economic well-being of our community, and help to fulfill the missions of the Illinois Innovation Network and the Discovery Partners Institute,” Jones said. “We look forward to more deeply integrating activities of the campus faculty members, students and staff with those of the Research Park and EnterpriseWorks.”
Susan Martinis, the interim vice chancellor for research at the Urbana-Champaign campus, said the total workforce at the Research Park represents the third-largest employer in the community.
“Aligning the Research Park more closely with our campus strongly supports our research, teaching, public engagement and economic development missions,” Martinis said. “It’s a powerful pipeline for students to connect with companies for experiential learning, and for companies to connect with students to harness cutting-edge skills.”
Jones thanked the Board of Managers; Ed Seidel, vice president for economic development and innovation; and Laura Frerichs, the director of the Research Park and EnterpriseWorks, for their roles in the Research Park’s success. Frerichs will continue to lead day-to-day operations under the auspices of the vice chancellor for research.
The chancellor also noted the critical role played by Peter Fox, the managing member of the Research Park’s development partner, Champaign-based Fox/Atkins Development, which has constructed 14 of the Research Park’s 17 buildings.
The board of trustees in September approved an updated master plan that will double the size of the park, with a focus on maximizing land use, tenant-driven amenities, walkability and connectivity to the community and other parts of campus.
“We plan to grow the size and impact of the Research Park significantly in the coming years, and in fact we’ve added several new tenants during this transition period,” Jones said. “The Research Park will benefit from better linkage and deeper connections to research and education activities on the Urbana-Champaign campus, and local oversight will foster a more focused approach to economic development in the communities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.”
The System is assuming responsibility for coordinating the Illinois Innovation Network and building the Discovery Partners Institute. Transferring the Research Park to the Urbana campus strengthens Urbana’s role as an Illinois Innovation Network hub focusing on the themes of data science, computer science and entrepreneurship. The IIN includes hubs at all of the state’s public universities, and the Research Park already is facilitating the growth of entrepreneurship education at many of the hubs.
“The board of trustees is very proud of the success of the Research Park at Urbana-Champaign,” said Ed McMillan, a University of Illinois trustee and chairman of the Research Park board. “During my more than 15 years as chair of the Research Park Board of Managers, the university and the System have been recognized as a U.S. leader in technology commercialization and research park innovation.
“We are particularly appreciative of Peter Fox, and his entire team at Fox/Atkins and Fox Development, as the Research Park developer since inception. They have been critical to the park’s overall success. ”
Corporations have sought out the Research Park to address recruitment needs for high-quality technical talent. More than 800 students work year-round in the Research Park, typically 10-20 hours a week during the school year and full-time in the summer. Companies also collaborate with U. of I. faculty members in research areas of mutual interest.
The corporate innovation centers in the Research Park include: AARP, Abbott Laboratories, Abbvie, ADM, AGCO, Ameren, Bayer, BP, Brunswick, Capital One, Caterpillar Inc., CME Group, Corteva Agrisciences, Graybar, Deere & Co., NVIDIA, State Farm, Synchrony, and Verizon Communications Inc. (Yahoo).
The Research Park also is home to the EnterpriseWorks technology incubator, which provides programming, entrepreneurial education, labs and offices for early stage scientific startup companies, many of them commercializing U. of I. research. Since opening in 2003, EnterpriseWorks companies have raised more than a billion dollars in venture capital and angel investment.