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Support for Research Facilities Drives Local Innovation and Job Creation
According to GO TO 2040, research and development (R&D) jobs have been declining in the Chicago region for the past decade. Economic innovation plays a major role in producing sustainable economic prosperity and enhancing the global competitiveness of places around the world. Though innovation is generated primarily by the private sector, GO TO 2040 recommends that the public sector provide support and services when possible. This can include grants to facilitate R&D and technology transfer by creating linkages between researchers and entrepreneurs.
Two hundred high-tech jobs are coming to Kane County through a new accelerator research facility at Fermilab. With a $20 million grant from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, Fermilab broke ground on December 16, 2011, to build the facility as part of its Illinois Accelerator Research Center (IARC) complex that will enable research, development, and industrialization of particle accelerator technology in Batavia. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is also providing $13 million to refurbish a building that will be part of the complex. To promote technology transfer, the new facility will help to connect scientists and engineers from Fermilab, Argonne National Laboratory, and local universities with industrial partners, while also training accelerator scientists for jobs in the private sector. In addition to their primary uses for physics research, particle accelerators can also be applied to challenges "in the areas of sustainable energy, a cleaner environment, economic security, health care, and national defense," according to a press release from Fermilab. Read more about the project's economic development importance in Lab Manager magazine.
Both Fermilab and Argonne were highlighted in the December Illinois Innovation Index newsletter, which focuses on R&D funding for Illinois universities and research institutions as a driver of innovation. According to the newsletter, the two DOE labs had an economic output of $1.34 billion in 2010, generating household earnings of $410.3 million and supporting the employment of 9,481 people in Illinois. In addition to preserving the immediate economic benefits of these facilities, GO TO 2040 points out that our region needs a coordinated approach to turning research at local laboratories and universities into commercial innovation that leads to further creation of jobs and wealth. Read more about this month's newsletter in Crain's Chicago Business.