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Makerspace Joins Incubator As ISU's Spokes In State Innovation Hub

architects rendering of the Trail East five story building
Town of Normal
The ISU/Bloomington-Normal Community Startup Incubator (CSI) would be located inside the new Trail East building in Uptown Normal.

A new on-campus makerspace and startup incubator in Uptown Normal will be Illinois State University’s contributions to a newly funded Illinois Innovation Network, officials said Wednesday.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday the state is releasing $500 million in capital funding for the University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). ISU is one of several hubs within the IIN.

The technology- and education-based startup incubator will be called the ISU/Bloomington-Normal Community Startup Incubator (CSI). It will be located at the new Trail East project in Uptown, where financing issues have delayed construction. The incubator was previously announced

The Community Makerspace and Educational Center is earlier in its development, ISU spokesperson Eric Jome said Wednesday. An on-campus location has yet to be decided, he said.

“The makerspace and educational center will provide campus and community members with access to the cities’ only makerspace while providing basic entrepreneurship education programs through a partnership with Heartland Community College and local high schools,” ISU said Wednesday. 

IIN and the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) were announced in 2017. Speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Chicago, University of Illinois President Tim Killeen said his university hopes to break ground on DPI sometime this year, and to begin construction on some network hubs “soon.” Killeen said Pritzker has been a supporter of the project since he took office, but he has also demanded accountability. 

“At the same time, he challenged us to hone detailed, measurable and specific plans for IIN and DPI to ensure that they fulfill their promise to make Chicago and Illinois the place where the whole world turns for discovery, innovation, and economic growth,” Killeen said. 

Pritzker said the capital funds will allow DPI and the other hubs to begin architectural design work. The project seeks to spur economic growth through research and public-private partnerships. 

“This nexus of partnerships, innovation hubs, public and private universities, national laboratories, and international research programs will fuel the next generation of economic vitality for communities across our state,” Pritzker said. 

There are 15 hubs being built at public university campuses in the Illinois Innovation Network, stretching from Rockford to Carbondale.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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