New Illinois/Missouri tech hubs to drive regional technology, innovation-centric growth

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Tech jobs to be major focus

By ELIZABETH DONALDSON
Illinois Correspondent

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN walks to the podium during an event announcing the regional tech hub selections.
– Jacquelyn Martin/AP photo

Tech jobs will be a major focus of the new tech hub designated at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in coming years.

U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce designated the iFAB Tech Hub in Champaign as one of 31 inaugural “Tech Hubs” nationwide, focusing on increasing domestic biomanufacturing through capacity and equipment as well as training a skilled work force.

In Missouri, the Biden administration announced tech hubs in the state: 

• Critical Minerals and Materials for Advanced Energy (CM2AE) Tech Hub, led by the University of Missouri System, aims to position south-central Missouri as a global leader in critical minerals processing to provide the materials needed to support battery technology.

• Kansas City Inclusive Biologics and Biomanufacturing Tech Hub (MO, KS), led by BioNexus KC, aims to position eastern Kansas and western Missouri as a global leader in biologics and biomanufacturing, increasing domestic production of life-saving vaccines and other preventative technologies.

‘AMERICA’S AG TECH CORRIDOR’
“As we work to drive 21st century agricultural innovation, the University of Illinois is uniquely positioned to make significant technological advances,” Budzinski said. “I couldn’t be more excited to see the Illinois Fermentation and Agriculture Biomanufacturing Hub at my alma mater designated as a Tech Hub. This designation will further establish the Decatur to Champaign region as America’s Ag Tech Corridor and support Illini students and faculty as they create a brighter future for American agriculture.”

The Tech Hubs program is authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act and invests directly in “high-potential” U.S. regions to encourage globally competitive innovation. Tech Hubs could receive as much as $50-75 million in additional investment if successful.

‘TRANSFORMING TECHNOLOGY’
Illinois political leaders lauded the decision.

“Home to world-class institutions and first-rate research centers, Illinois is transforming technology, biomanufacturing, and innovation at every turn,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I couldn’t be prouder that the Biden Administration has selected The Chicago Quantum Exchange’s the Bloch and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s iFAB Hub as two of just 31 inaugural tech hubs — opening the door for even more investment, advancement, and discovery. There’s no doubt that the rest of the nation have caught on to our great state’s status as an innovation powerhouse — and our future couldn’t be brighter.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said coordination across all levels of government is key to maximizing these investments, and she worked with Pritzker and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to advocate for the two Illinois hub sites.

‘GREATER INNOVATION, INVESTMENT AND JOB CREATION’
“Illinois is already a hub of agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and technology, making our state ideally positioned for these Tech Hub designations and, with them, greater innovation, investment and job creation,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). “I was proud to help pass the CHIPS and Science Act last year, but today I’m thrilled Illinois is making it clear that we are ready to compete and have the projects and innovation ready to compete for the law’s new investments right here to bring our state, nation and world into the future.”

Durbin said the news was welcome. “As a national leader in both quantum and biomanufacturing, Illinois is well-equipped to look beyond existing technologies to capture the next generation of economic opportunities,” he said. “I look forward to seeing Illinois’ Tech Hubs lead the way in these transformative fields.”

TOTAL OF 31 SITES SELECTED
Champaign and Missouri sites are some of 31 sites selected from 198 applications across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The program is administered by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.

“The Tech Hubs Program is designed to drive regional technology- and innovation-centric growth by strengthening a region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy critical technologies while also catalyzing the creation of good jobs for American workers at all skill levels, both equitably and inclusively,” according to the iFab Consortium website.

iFab brings together more than 30 partners in academia, industry and government to focus on fermentation in biomanufacturing. That market is estimated to grow by 40 percent a year and will represent a $30 billion industry by 2030, according to the site. Illinois has the largest soy and second largest corn production in the U.S., which is key to biomanufacturing, they said.


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