HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago’s Polsky Center is getting a big boost with new partnerships with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
U. of C. announced Thursday that U. of I. would send 100 faculty members and students working in advanced analytics and advanced materials to U. of C.’s center that works to commercialize academic research and foster start-up businesses.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were on hand as the partnerships were announced at an event at the Polsky Center, 1452 E. 53rd St., Thursday, along with U. of C. President Robert Zimmer.
Zimmer said the institutions will unite to "help address some of society's most pressing problems," like ensuring the world has access to clean water and treating cancer.
He said the partnership also will also boost the work of South Side entrepreneurs.
“The rapid evolution of technology is leading to dramatic opportunities for science, engineering, and venture formation in the areas of advanced materials and data and computer sciences,” Zimmer said in an earlier statement. “By making the most of each institution’s distinctive leadership in science, engineering and business development, and our combined infrastructure, this ambitious initiative will accelerate the pace of discovery while providing a clear path to economic development for our community, city and state.”
The announcement comes as U. of C. plans a major expansion of the Polsky Center to add 280,000 square feet of new office and lab space in Hyde Park.
The Army Research Laboratory is the first major outside research group to sign on to be part of that expansion, announcing Wednesday it will build its first laboratory in the Midwest in the new space.
The academic partnerships come as U. of I. also makes plans for a larger research campus in the South Loop as its first permanent foothold in the city. That plan is conceptual, while the Hyde Park partnerships are expected to start far earlier, with construction on U. of C.’s new office and lab space expected to start next year.
“Our institutions lead the way in advanced analytics and advanced materials, and these fields will drive new technologies and new business opportunities,” said Robert Jones, chancellor at U. of I. “This partnership with the University of Chicago is exciting and exemplifies the kind of collaborations between public and private universities that the times and societal challenges demand of us.
He said it’s a win for the state to have the two universities collaborating more closely in Chicago.