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The award-winning Research Park is largely the reason, sited by Reuters, that the University of Illinois was ranked the 25th most innovative university in the world out of 100. Rueters classified the University as an educational institution contributing to “advancing science, starting new markets and inventing new technologies.”
The Research Park really began to flourish in the past ten years, after blossoming in 1999. Today, the park consists of 17 buildings with 100 leading companies and employs over 2,000 employees.
“Innovation is in this community’s DNA,” associate director of the park, Laura Bleill said. “It’s really part of whom we are and what we do and why we’ve been so successful as an institution and as a community.”
The Research Park is really known for student innovation, stemming directly from the University. “It provides opportunities for students to use their skills to develop and apply the ones they’re using in a classroom in an environment where those skills are needed and wanted and valued” Bleill said.
This can be seen in EnterpriseWorks, the park’s start-up incubator. Lifefoundry, Inc., is using robotic tools to apply automation skills in an effort to reduce human error in science labs.
Photonicare, Inc., another EnterpriseWorks startup, is working on a device that helps physicians quickly and accurately diagnose middle ear infections.
These are just a few of the innovations stemming from the park. “It’s really about a continuum so from that first kernel of an idea all the way into making that first sale” Bleill said. “Research Park is for aspiring entrepreneurs to really stir the pot of what their ideas and dreams could be, but it’s also a place where businesses can launch and thrive in the early stages.”