University Park, IL,
10:02 AM

Advancing Smart Logistics project led by GSU, IIN receives $1 million NSF Engines Development Award

Award sets the groundwork to establish the state of Illinois as smart logistics hub


[University Park, Ill.], May 11, 2023 – Governors State University (GSU), a minority serving institution, in collaboration with the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), receives one of the first ever National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) awards to lead the Advancing Smart Logistics (ASL) team in an effort to lay the foundation to make Illinois one of the nation’s most advanced transportation and logistics hubs. This project, funded by the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (the first new directorate in NSF in 30 years), will develop and introduce smart logistics innovations, while also including an integrated plan to ensure that workers can attain long-term employment and participation in new and existing industries.

The $1 million NSF Engines Development Award supports GSU and its partner organizations through a two-year planning phase to create connections and develop local innovation ecosystems, with the goal of preparing a strong proposal to become an NSF Engine and receive up to $160 million to positively impact Illinois’ economy, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges and ensure equity for those in underserved communities, advance national competitiveness, and create good-paying, local jobs.

“Advancing Smart Logistics is a transformative project centered around innovation and supporting the creation of greater societal, economic, and technological success for our state,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. “Illinois is a nation-leading hub for technology and progress, and this NSF Engines Development Award will further advance partnerships across sectors, organizations, and educational institutions.”

ASL is among the more than 40 unique teams to receive one of the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards, which aim to help partners collaborate to create economic, societal, and technological opportunities for their regions.

ASL will build an equitable economic development around advances in transportation logistics, including automation of middle-mile freight trucking systems, deployment of drones and electric vehicles, and regionalizing inland waterway freight and Corn Belt ports. It also will identify strategies for reskilling and upskilling individuals whose career paths are disrupted by automation, while ensuring that workers in local and sub-regional economies can attain long-term participation in new and existing industries.

“This NSF Engines Development Award will enable GSU’s Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator (SCICBI) to collaborate with other IIN hubs and partners in the private sector throughout the state, and lay the groundwork for a successful Type 2 application in two years,” said Reggie Greenwood, Director of GSU’s Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator, and ASL principal investigator. “ASL will leverage Illinois’ world-class research capacity, logistics assets, workforce development, and training resources to develop an ecosystem for smart logistics and contribute to the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.”

The NSF Engines program is a transformational investment for the nation, ensuring the U.S. remains in the vanguard of competitiveness for decades to come. The awardees span a broad range of states and regions, reaching geographic areas that have not fully benefited from the technology boom of the past decades. 

"These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF's vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation."

Led by GSU and the IIN, Advancing Smart Logistics engages key partners including higher education institutions, private corporations, and non-profit organizations. The IIN, which is led by the University of Illinois System, is a group of 15 university-based hubs across the state working to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development. Funded ASL partners/sub-recipients include Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Western Illinois University. Other partners include Chicago State University, Discovery Partners Institute, Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois Springfield, Olive-Harvey College, City Colleges of Chicago, Distillery Labs, the lllinois Community College Board, Ahern Investment & Development, Corn Belt Ports, LLC, ConGlobal Industries LLC, Hanson Professional Services, Inc., Lanco International Inc., Mobility Illinois, mHub, OAI, Inc., PepsiCo, Inc., Southern Company Gas (Nicor Inc.), Tandem Development Group, LLC, Riverside Global, Valqari LLC, Wintrust Commercial Finance, and World Business Chicago.

Launched by NSF's new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and authorized by the "CHIPS and Science Act of 2022," the NSF Engines program uniquely harnesses the nation's science and technology research and development enterprise and regional-level resources. NSF Engines aspire to catalyze robust partnerships to positively impact regional economies, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness and create local, high-wage jobs.

“As the only public university in Chicago’s Southland, GSU plays a vital role as an economic catalyst in our region” said Dr. Cheryl Green, President of Governors State University. “I’m glad that through the efforts of our faculty and staff in the College of Business and Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator, we are making a significant contribution to the economic development of our region and our state.”

View a map of the NSF Engines Development Awards. More information can be found on the NSF Engines program website.


GSU MEDIA POC:  Lisa Redmond,, 708-534-7090

Quotes from partner organizations:

Dr. Cheryl Green, President, Governors State University
“I am pleased that the Advancing Smart Logistics proposal led by GSU has been selected as one of the awardees in NSF’s new Regional Innovation Engines Development Award program. It is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with other Illinois Innovation Network hubs and private partners throughout the state, to develop a successful Type 2 proposal for a Smart Logistics Engine in the state of Illinois. As the only public university in Chicago’s Southland, GSU plays a vital role as an economic catalyst in our region. I’m glad that through the efforts of our faculty and staff in the College of Business and Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator, we are making a significant contribution to the economic development of our region and our state.”

Tim Killeen, President, University of Illinois System

“This award from the NSF is a vote of confidence in the University of Illinois System’s Illinois Innovation Network and its ability to tackle economic and societal challenges at all levels. IIN’s network of hubs was created to dial in on critical needs and opportunities like those around transportation logistics and automation and to collaborate to leverage each hub’s strengths. IIN is just one example of the U of I System at its best – working for the public good here in Illinois and around the country.”

Jay Walsh, Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation, University of Illinois System

“We are thrilled that the IIN, with Governors State University as the lead, has received an NSF Regional Innovation Engines Development Award. Advancing Smart Logistics is a perfect example of the transformational applied research, economic development and workforce development projects that the IIN is poised to tackle. Illinois has incredible strength and resources in next-generation transportation and logistics, and I look forward to seeing the progress ASL makes over the next two years.”

Robert J. Jones, Chancellor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

“The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is very, very excited to be among the partners receiving the ASL Regional Innovation Engine Development Award. Among the many things we all learned during the global pandemic disruptions was just how critical resilient and modern transportation networks and infrastructure were to every aspect of our lives and to the sustainability of our communities. This is a historic and visionary investment by the NSF in inventing the technologies and developing the skilled workforce to build this infrastructure and I’m confident this award will help ensure that our state is at the center of this effort.”

Dr. Lisa C. Freeman, President, Northern Illinois University

“NIU is excited to partner with Governors State University and members of the Illinois Innovation Network on the Advancing Smart Logistics effort. The NSF planning grant supporting this initiative represents an important step toward building resilient transportation infrastructure that is inclusive, innovative and transformational. NIU is committed to community sustainability, and to equitable workforce development and economic engagement strategies that address historical and structural barriers faced by underserved communities. We are proud to bring our considerable expertise and experience to this project that leverages technology for the benefit of our region and state.”

Javier Reyes, Interim Chancellor, University of Illinois Chicago

“UIC is pleased to be a key research partner in this important project that has the potential to deliver wide-ranging economic benefits. The innovative research conducted by the university’s Urban Transportation Center and its collaborators will help to inform and improve operations and logistics across industries, bring new insight to opportunities in middle-mile automation and advance equitable workforce development strategies.”

Dan Mahony, President, Southern Illinois University System

“The SIU System campuses are very excited to be a part of the NSF Regional Innovation Engines Development Award. Thanks to a great research partnership led by Governors State University and the Illinois Innovation Network, SIU Carbondale and SIU Edwardsville will play an important role in multiple segments of the Advancing Smart Logistics grant. We look forward to working with the IIN and our sister institutions, as well as business and government partners, to create a framework that will provide new opportunities and greater access to commerce throughout the region and beyond, but more importantly, training for good paying jobs that support our Illinois and national economies.”

Guiyou Huang, President, Western Illinois University

Western Illinois University and the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs are incredibly excited to join Governors State and other IIN hubs on this NSF Regional Innovation Engines Development Award. We look forward to contributing in many aspects, including rural commerce systems, community and economic development, and connecting workers to innovative education, training and services. Promoting rural development is something that affects us all, and I’m excited that Western gets to help move this project forward.

Dr. David Glassman, President, Eastern Illinois University

“Eastern Illinois University is thrilled to be a partner in the IIN’s Advancing Smart Logistics project. This NSF award is a substantial investment in Illinois intended to empower its workers and accelerate economic and community development opportunities across the state. Providing close-to-home education, training and services will create a more confident and capable workforce prepared to engage and succeed in our rapidly changing, 21st century economy.”