Kicking things off, Caralynn Nowinski Collens, CEO of UI Labs, provided the initial spark of this conversation by noting the importance of Chicago taking advantage of the “fourth industrial revolution,” leveraging Chicago’s history of industry and encouraging training and exploration in the manufacturing realm. UI Labs, short for University Industry Labs, also provided tours of their celebrated innovation accelerator space for advanced manufacturing.
Kristin Barrett, Senior Director at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is committed to leveraging Chicago’s neighborhood geography. Barrett explained how UChicago is diversifying and investing in communities around their South Loop campus in Chicago, focusing on nine specific neighborhoods. UChicago frames convergent discovery by seeking multiple, diverse voices, and sparking economic development in areas like the South Loop that need to jumpstart positive gains across the board.
Chicago is centrally located in our country, and this location comes with advantages. Dr. Phil Hockberger of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine used the International Center for Advanced Computing Research and its Starlight project as an example of Chicago’s centrality playing its advantage. The fiber hub helps provide enhanced technologies for a global network.
Dr. Hockberger commented, “If you were to ask any scientist: ‘What do you need?’ They’d ask for all the bandwidth and computational power, the largest building exchange of information.” Data and analytics are a critical seam between interdisciplinary work. Northwestern University’s Starlight steps in with its international reach, funded by grants from around the country and world to share data.
In addition to this one organization Dr. Hockberger discussed, we learned there are several organizations and institutions working towards convergence. He suggests focusing on what we don’t have, optimizing what we already do, and leverage those strengths. “Convergence asks scientists to look at the big picture,” Hockberger added.
Bob Geolas, Partner at HR&R Advisors, referenced an interesting example of how geography can abet discovery with his experience leading the re-development and re-imagining of the Research Triangle Park, or “RTP,” in North Carolina. RTP needed to change the dynamic of its physical and programmatic functions – establishing a urban experience in a suburban setting.