University of Illinois to Explore Chicago R&D Lab Idea

October 16, 2012

A University of Illinois Chicago-professor says the idea of a research and development lab in the city and tied to the school is a ‘work in progress’ that’s patterned after what other institutions have done.

The Champaign News-Gazette on Tuesday reported that U of I President Robert Easter wouldn’t discuss details of the plan, but Biology Professor Don Chambers denies administrators are being tight-lipped about the concept. 

"I don't think one should get the idea that this is a secret venture," he said.  "I mean, I'm an administrative faculty leader, and I knew about it, nobody was trying to suppress this."

Chambers says he first heard the concept of a lab partnership because he’s on the advisory committee of Vice President for Research Larry Schook, who presented the idea Tuesday to the University Senates Conference. 

"I think at the beginning of an idea, you have to bring the idea to formulation stage, and to execution stage, or pre-execution stage," he said.  "And then it's ready for more public discussion."

Chambers says the partnership would be similar to what occurred at Bell Laboratories, where researchers developed innovations like the transistor.

He says the idea will open lines of communication between the three campuses.

"There are some barriers between the campuses that have occurred historically," he said. "And I, for one, am for trying to diminish barriers of any kind in the intellectual enterprise."

Chambers says the idea was partially inspired by the success of Bell Labs.  This concept has been labeled ‘UI Labs – The Future Today.’  Attorneys for the U of I filed paperwork to trademark the name last summer. 

Senates Conference Vice Chair and Professor Nick Burbules says the U of I should make sure that any lab program doesn't pull resources away from the university's three campuses.

Chambers says any new endeavor that requires funding will generate fear, but he says also says such a partnership should not only fill an industrial or corporate need, but generate new resources where state dollars are lacking.

Story source: WILL