University Park, IL,
11:19 AM

Governors State Creates Illinois' Only Supply Chain Hub

As part of a state-wide initiative to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research, and workforce development, Governors State University is establishing a Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator (SCICBI) as its Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) hub.

One of 15 hubs based at the state’s public universities, the SCICBI is the only supply chain focused hub in the network, advancing the mission of the newly created Illinois Innovation Network (IIN).

Governors State University President Elaine P. Maimon said, “The Illinois Innovation Network provides a framework for the university to cooperate with other Illinois public universities to apply knowledge and research to the state’s most pressing problems and to stimulate economic growth.”

Led by the University of Illinois System, IIN launched last August with its first hubs at the three U of I system institutions and a fourth at the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in downtown Chicago. Northern Illinois University joined IIN in September and Peoria, which is home to a regional academic medical center, joined in December.

IIN hubs will harness the intellectual strengths of universities and their communities to foster research innovation that drives progress and economic growth. With the convergence of so many highways and railroad lines in the South Suburbs, the area has emerged as a supply chain logistics hub, drawing companies like Amazon, which opened a distribution center in Monee in 2017.

Governors State’s College of Business (COB) faculty and administrators spotted a growing need for an educated workforce to manage the complicated and expanding sector and decided to create a program to address the need at GSU.

“It’s part of GSU’s mission to be an economic catalyst for the region, which means helping people start businesses that create jobs and also educating people who give back,” said  Jun Zhao, COB Dean. “The supply chain and logistics sector has become a growth engine for this area, which is also why we started an online MBA program in Supply Chain Management in 2013. There is a real need for people who understand how to manage the complex systems of procurement, transportation, warehousing and other supply chain related issues that directly affect the competitiveness of businesses today.”

As part of the SCICBI, faculty, along with some faculty-led student teams, will share expertise with existing companies and help them solve business problems, as well as providing training and development programs to employees. “Whether they are large or small, firms may not have in-house experts in the areas that need improvement,” Zhao said.

GSU also will offer a certificate training in supply chain management through the SCICBI to businesses and students.

The Business Incubator will provide resources to entrepreneurs who may need mentoring, coaching or consulting to develop and commercialize their ideas, Zhao said, noting that these individuals could be GSU faculty or students, employees of supply chain businesses, or anyone who has ideas that have the potential of being developed into business startups. SCICBI also will offer a co-working space on campus for these members to utilize and access to resources they otherwise might not have outside the venue.

The SCICBI will be headed by Professor Olumide Ijose, who will serve as Director, and University Lecturer Tricia Kerns, who will be Associate Director. Its advisory board, made up of area business leaders, will work to provide advice and advocacy and help the center/incubator get started in 2020. The advisory board will also help SCICBI attract initial clients through the vast networks of the members. SCICBI will also utilize GSU’s existing partnership with its community colleges and business partners in the region to increase its impact.

“The idea is to promote innovation and create economic growth opportunities for this region,” Zhao said.

The new hub also will enable faculty across Governors State University to engage with companies in a practical way, Zhao said. “The way we’ll engage with the business community will have a stronger impact.”

Hubs also will be located at Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Rockford (on the U of I regional medical campus), Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Western Illinois University.

DPI, a purpose-driven, collaborative research center led by the U of I System in downtown Chicago, will ultimately be home to thousands of students and over 100 top researchers. They will work with IIN hubs and with academic, business and tech partners around the world on breakthrough discoveries to spark innovation, economic growth and prosperity.

Work at each hub will seek to grow its local and regional economy through education and innovation pinned to the academic strengths of their host university, such as clean energy, health care, manufacturing, entrepreneurship and food supplies. They also will work with DPI and their sister IIN hubs to identify opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing.

All of the hubs are in line for startup funding from the $500 million in capital dollars that were approved for DPI and IIN last year by the Illinois legislature, and the funding is re-appropriated in this year’s capital budget.

The state's capital funding will help make the space ready for the new center. Meanwhile, the university is moving forward.

Zhao said SCICBI leaders are seeking funds to operate it from both public and private partnerships.  And the university recently hosted a system-wide IIN Council meeting to plan next steps across the state. 

Governors State Provost Elizabeth Cada is GSU’s representative on the IIN council, and also chairing the Education and Workforce Development committee for 2019-2020.

After a recent IIN Council meeting at Governors State, Cada said  this is an exciting time in the university's history. "This year we are celebrating 50 years of innovation and education. The SCICBI is yet another example of how Governors State adapts and innovates to meet the needs of the region."