The Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) last week awarded $120,000 in seed grants to four research teams in its fourth round of funding. Selected projects include a new approach to improving community resilience against floods, growing the computational thinking and coding workforce in southeast Illinois, investigating the viability of geopolymer concrete as a sustainable construction material, and examining how Illinois can develop a sustainable and inclusive supply chain for the electric vehicle industry. These projects represent six of the state’s 10 economic development regions.
The funding is part of IIN’s Sustaining Illinois program, which is designed to increase collaborative research among the state’s public universities, focusing on the economy, health and social well-being, while addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Sustaining Illinois now includes 24 funded projects, and 12 of the 15 IIN hubs have been a lead recipient of funding.
IIN is a group of 15 university-based hubs across the state working to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development. The seed funding was provided by the University of Illinois System and Northern Illinois University (NIU).
“I am continually impressed with the innovative and forward-looking projects that are proposed through the Sustaining Illinois program,” U of I System Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation Jay Walsh said. “These four funded projects are examples of the strengths of our public universities and the many ways they benefit our state.”
The proposals were required to include researchers from at least two IIN hubs and be completed within one year of receiving funding. Proposals were evaluated on their alignment with IIN principles, how well they address their stated areas of sustainability, the scope of their work and level of collaboration, as well as their potential for further work.
“These funded projects are outstanding examples of the IIN's responsiveness to issues facing Illinois,” said Gerald Blazey, Chair of the IIN Council and Northern Illinois University Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships.
The four newly funded projects and researchers are:
Geopolymer concrete for sustainable construction and beyond
Guang Jin, professor of environmental health and sustainability, Illinois State University (ISU); Pranshoo Solanki, professor of construction management, ISU; and Nishant Garg, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
Integrating hydrology and social science for community resiliency against flooding hazards: a case study for East St. Louis, Ill.
Ajay Kalra, assistant professor of civil, environmental and infrastructure engineering, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC); Robert Dixon, associate professor of chemistry, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE); Courtney Breckenridge, specialist of alternative credentials and grant development, SIUE; and Connie Frey Spurlock, associate professor of sociology, SIUE
Planning the southeast Illinois P-16 computational thinking network
Brian Reid, director of the Rural School Initiative, Eastern Illinois University (EIU); and George Reese, director of the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education, UIUC
Sustainable inclusive supply chain for the electric vehicle industry in Illinois
John Simon, associate professor of management, Governors State University (GSU); and P.S. Sriraj, director of the Urban Transportation Center, University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)