The U.S. Department of Commerce and its Economic Development Administration (EDA) on Monday recognized two University of Notre Dame programs with a development grant and a Tech Hub designation. The announcements are the first phase of a nationwide economic development initiative designed to drive regional innovation and job creation.
The University was awarded a Strategy Development Grant (SDG) to lead the Midwest Wireless Innovation Strategy Development Consortium, part of the newly launched Tech Hub Programs announced by the EDA.
Notre Dame is also a partner in Heartland BioWorks, a consortium of Indiana biomanufacturing stakeholders that the EDA designated as a 2023 Regional Technology and Innovation Hub, a move that will allow it to compete for funding.
The inaugural Tech Hub designees and SDG recipients were announced by President Joe Biden and authorized by the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act.
“Today’s announcements are another positive indication of research at the University of Notre Dame having an enduring impact in our community and nation,” said Jeffrey F. Rhoads, vice president for research and professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at Notre Dame. “These initiatives will spur local economic growth through the new innovations being developed by our faculty, staff and students in our physical and virtual laboratories, and will further accelerate the great things happening in our region.”
U.S. Sen. Todd Young championed the concept of regional Tech Hubs — a key aspect of the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act.
“When I authored the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs program, my goal was to spur more innovation in technologies of the future in places like Indiana, rather than just Silicon Valley and a few coastal cities,” Young said. “I’m pleased to see Notre Dame receive a strategy development grant to further plans for a Midwest Wireless Innovation Hub.”
Leading wireless innovation in the Midwest
Notre Dame will lead the Midwest Wireless Innovation Strategy Development Consortium, which will develop a strategy to connect, strengthen and grow a network of 21 physical centers specializing in advanced technology innovation, commercialization and workforce training. The consortium is one of 29 awarded SDGs out of 400 applicants.
Serving Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, the wireless planning group includes multiple partnerships within the local South Bend-Elkhart region. The consortium will focus on accelerating the translation and commercialization of university research, provide infrastructure and support for advanced radio frequency testing and certification, pilot new products and applications in city-scale network testbeds, and incubate startup and enterprise innovations to fuel economic growth throughout the region.
The goal is to leverage substantial investments in both semiconductors and broadband to fuel regional economic development and competitiveness at the global level.
“As advanced wireless technologies and applications continue to transform modern society, they have become critical to economic development, national security and global competitiveness,” said Nick Laneman, professor of electrical engineering and co-director of the Wireless Institute at Notre Dame, who will lead the consortium. “In addition to improving people’s everyday lives, there are tremendous opportunities for career development in this high-tech area of national need.
“This grant gives us the unique opportunity to harness a national network of academic, industry and government research collaborations with regional economic and workforce development initiatives to help wireless talent and businesses thrive in the midwest,” Laneman added.
Strengthening Indiana’s leadership in biotechnology
Notre Dame will also partner on Heartland BioWorks, a collaboration of Indiana stakeholders ensuring that bioproducts invented in America are produced domestically.
As one of 31 Tech Hub designees, Heartland BioWorks will support the acceleration of workforce development while removing barriers to success for entrepreneurs and small business owners striving to develop new biotechnologies.
“Designating Heartland BioWorks as a Tech Hub is a recognition of Indiana’s leadership in biotechnology and synthetic biology research and manufacturing, and Notre Dame is a critical partner in this effort,” Young said. “There are many exciting opportunities on the horizon for Notre Dame students and faculty.”
Heartland BioWorks will include three networks: BioTrain, BioLaunch and BioMake. Notre Dame’s most significant impact will be through BioMake, or Heartland BioWorks’ BioWorks Innovation in Advanced Manufacturing Network. BioMake will be dedicated to the testing and demonstration of next generation bio-manufacturing technologies that improve the efficiency, capability and cost of operations.
Notre Dame is home to multiple centers, institutes and facilities that make the University well equipped to support Heartland BioWorks and BioMake, including the National Science Foundation’s Center for Computer Assisted Synthesis, the Warren Center for Drug Discovery, the Berthiaume Institute for Precision Health and the Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society, to name a few.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the BioWorks effort, which has significant potential to transform the national biotech sector and the regional economy,” said Nitesh Chawla, the Frank M. Freimann Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Director of Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society, and Notre Dame’s lead on the BioWorks Hub. “Notre Dame houses multiple assets that support biotechnology and next-generation data science, and incorporating these capabilities into the BioWorks ecosystem will help accelerate manufacturing capabilities statewide and provide a significant economic and workforce development impetus.”
Heartland BioWorks will now compete against other designated hubs to receive between $40 million and $70 million each for implementation funding.