Southern Illinois University is among 570 public and private sector organizations that will participate in a new manufacturing initiative under a federal $70 million grant announced Sunday, area legislators said.
Those in the group, including industry, universities, government and other organizational leaders and supporters matched the grant with their own $250 million for the initiative.
The funds awarded to UI Labs will establish a national Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute designed to advance manufacturing, improve military readiness and create thousands of jobs, according to local legislators.
The Department of Defense is the lead agency on the “Digital Lab” awarded to Illinois.
“This new Digital Lab has the potential to revolutionize the way the United States approaches manufacturing and a major effort will be centered in Illinois,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, said. “Illinois will undoubtedly benefit from the thousands of jobs created through this research.”
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SIU is among several universities named in the consortium, along with the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the Illinois Institute of Technology, to name some.
Private manufacturers include Boeing, General Dynamics, the Quad Cities Manufacturing Laboratory and the Blue Waters Supercomputer and other defense and commercial manufacturers as well as educational and business development partners.
The lab will also help drive workforce training because new, high-skilled labor will be needed for jobs created under the Digital Lab, seen as transforming defense and civilian industries with billions in annual savings, the lawmakers said.
The program arrives after President Barack Obama proposed last year new manufacturing institutes to bridge research and product development for enhanced efficiency.
“Southern Illinois has a proud tradition of manufacturing, particularly for our national defense,” U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, said. “The consortium of education, research and industry assembled by UI Labs will ensure all part of Illinois will be on the cutting edge of the next generation of manufacturing.”