Illinois, IBM creating $200M Institute on emerging technology

The Discovery Accelerator will allow university students and industry researchers to work on complex global solutions with AI, quantum technology and cloud computing.

The state of Illinois has invested nearly $1 billion in education initiatives around emerging technology over the past few years. The latest $200 million endeavor – a collaboration between the University of Illinois and IBM – promises to drive innovation and boost workforce skills well beyond its borders.

The Grainger College of Engineering, along with the state and the business services company are planning to launch a Discovery Accelerator Institute on the Urbana-Champaign campus, a 10-year research project that they say will focus on solving global challenges in four main areas: hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, quantum technology, accelerated materials discovery and sustainability.

The goal is to bring together two fields areas of expertise – higher education and industry – to spark new ideas and forge solutions that can be technology difference-makers.

“This IBM investment will not only lift up a world-class educational institution, but also will invite national and international scientists, entrepreneurs, businesses, and innovators to Illinois,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “It sets our state up to become a serious technology industry leader on the international stage.”

Students from Illinois and researchers from IBM will work together on creating a more adaptable and foolproof AI-powered global cloud infrastructure while pushing the bounds of quantum computing. The collaboration will offer both STEM learning and experiential opportunities for students.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the new model of partnership we are building with the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign,” said Arvind Krishna, CEO of IBM. “We’re bringing together some of the brightest minds across both the industry and academia. I’m eager to see the groundbreaking research and solutions the teams will pioneer – from the discovery of new materials to carbon capture.”

Inside the Institute

More than just a space to develop new technology and conduct research, the Institute promises to be a pipeline to help spur job growth in the state through a diverse pool of workers, students and skillsets.

“This new collaboration builds on the foundational success of the IBM-Illinois Center for Cognitive Computing Systems Research (C3SR) since 2016,” said Rashid Bashir, dean of The Grainger College of Engineering. “New collaborations between IBM researchers and Illinois faculty will allow for faster translation of bleeding-edge innovation to society.”

That innovation includes four targeted areas the two teams say they will be focused on:

  1. Hybrid cloud and AI innovations. Seeking ways to expand edge computing and security in cloud-based environments, the leaders say accessing “curated data and processing power from multiple distributed data centers and workloads will be paramount.” So, Illinois students and IBM researchers will be looking at protecting data through open-source innovations and AI.
  2. Quantum technology. Along with boosting potential hardware and software development, the two will build curriculum and programs that create and foster a diverse, talented pool of next-generation researchers and workers. IBM will lean on its strengths in quantum computing, while Illinois will rely on its experience around computing science, physics and engineering.
  3. Discovery of new materials. The teams not only will be utilizing AI and computing to look at producing energy-savings and cost-friendly materials but also how “AI can enable new, accelerated, and autonomous discovery of molecular materials.”
  4. Ensuring sustainability. One of the global solutions the teams plan to address is climate change and carbon impact. “Researchers will explore technologies to create a sustainable hybrid cloud and climate-smart supply chains, and accelerate the discovery of new materials for CO2 capture and conversion,” according to the University of Illinois.

“This institute with IBM is a pioneering new model of how we can build academic and researcher collaboration into technology and innovation at unmatched excellence and scale,” said Robert J. Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “What excites us the most is imagining the exponentially expanded possibilities in these new emerging fields that will define the 21st century.”

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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