Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the release of $500 million for the University of Illinois’ Illinois Innovation Network and Discovery Partners Institute project, which will create a network of research and innovation hubs expected to support 48,000 jobs.
The project was initiated in 2017 by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Pritzker said the money was above and beyond the state’s $46 billion multi-year capital construction program.
“It was appropriated, as you know, a couple of years ago but because the project hadn’t raised the private dollars to go with the matching dollars that were intended for it, there was a delay in that so those dollars are actually separate and promised separately from the Rebuild Illinois program,” Pritzker said.
The Rebuild Illinois Program is funded by the state’s higher gas tax and increases in other driver fees along with expanded gambling. Tens of millions of dollars from that have been announced for other projects at universities throughout the state.
Pritzker said the state held off on releasing the DPI and IIN funds, which will come from other capital funding sources, not from the state’s operating budget, so the universities could secure matching dollars.
“They went and did that and over the course of the last year they put together $230 million in hard commitments from industry and philanthropy and so on,” the governor said.
Another $224 million in non-state funding will come from the state’s other universities, the governor said. Universities get state funding on top of the revenue from tuition and student fees.
University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen said the Illinois Innovation Network will have 15 hubs for research and development projects throughout the state.
“The design process is already well underway in Carbondale, Champaign-Urbana and Bloomington-Normal with other hubs close at their heels,” he said.
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, was questioned the need to expand the footprint of the state’s universities and the lack of details.
“There are all kinds of details and questions that need to be answered,” Rose said.
“On the face of it, [is] giving Urbana campus students access to the greatest tech companies in the world a feather in Urbana’s campuses hat? Yes, absolutely,” Rose said. “Great. That’s the bullet point. Where’s the detail? What is it really going to be over time is the better question?”
Rose said he has little faith in big “shiny” plans.
“This is the same group that ten years ago told us that they were going to get the largest, fastest supercomputer in the world, but then they had to go back to Springfield because they forgot to budget to turn it on,” Rose said. “They wanted a supplemental appropriation to turn it on.”
“I just don’t have a whole lot of faith in the university anytime it makes big sweeping statements that say ‘trust us, this will be the greatest thing since sliced bread,’ ” Rose said.
Rose said he had lots of questions prepared for when university leaders come to lawmakers for funding for the budget that begins this summer.