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Gov. Quinn names NIU’s Lisa Freeman to serve on newly created Illinois Innovation Council

February 17, 2011
Lisa Freeman

Lisa Freeman

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has named Lisa Freeman, Northern Illinois University’s vice president for research and graduate studies, to the newly created Illinois Innovation Council.

The governor announced the council’s creation during his 2012 budget address to the Illinois General Assembly. Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell will lead the effort.

“By harnessing our resources and coordinating our efforts, by putting scientists and inventors in touch with businesses and investors, and by placing significant private-sector investment behind the best ideas in our state, we will create the jobs of today and tomorrow right here in Illinois,” Quinn said.

The council will promote the role and importance of innovation in economic development and quality of life; convene and partner with academic, business and governments to evaluate and recommend initiatives to improve support for innovation; and align public and private resources.

Freeman, who joined NIU in July 2010, has focused her academic career on bringing people and resources together to solve complex problems.

“I believe the governor recognizes the important role strong regional universities can play in innovation, and NIU has a well-earned reputation for the strength of its applied research programs,” Freeman said.

“We are, in fact, an important part of a vibrant global region,” she added. “We need to be at the table helping to develop a better future for our students, faculty and staff. We need to do what we can to support innovation and to work with other universities, national laboratories, government and the private sector to help set and achieve common goals.”

NIU is a member of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC), the only organization representing the full range of science and technology activity in Illinois. Its mission is to foster public-private partnerships to develop and execute research and development projects, advocate for funding and collaborate with partners to attract and retain resources and talent in Illinois. The Illinois Innovation Council will complement the work of the ISTC.

Freeman noted that Illinois’ rich history of innovation includes such notable corporate names as Sears and Caterpillar, manufacturing giants Cyrus McCormick, John Deere and George Pullman and architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. 

“The list can go on and on,” Freeman said. “While looking to the future, we need to recreate the dynamic environment that allowed such innovators to thrive. I believe that we have most of the pieces in place. We just need to look at ways in which we can better align our interests and resources. The Innovation Council will help to provide the leadership and direction to make this happen.”

Among the Innovation Council’s first tasks, Freeman said, will be a thorough assessment of the state’s current culture of innovation, examining such things as legal or regulatory barriers and human and capital resources.

“We have world-class universities and national laboratories, but are we making full use of these resources?” Freeman said. “Once we understand the current culture, we can work to maximize opportunities and overcome obstacles. I think the leadership that a statewide Innovation Council can provide will go a long way in bringing the appropriate players to the table.”

Freeman added that she looks forward to meeting Groupon’s Keywell and other colleagues on the new panel. “Mr. Keywell is a good example of the type of innovators we are looking to support and champion.”

A full listing of Illinois Innovation Council members is available online.