A new center that will work to secure a sustainable future for the state of Illinois and a new home devoted to preparing students for careers in health care will soon rise on the NIU campus.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Feb. 12 that he has released $15 million for the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability at NIU. That is part of $500 million in capital funding appropriated for the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). The university anticipates receiving 10 percent of that money soon to formally begin planning the facility.
Separately, the state also recently authorized the release of $7.7 million to launch planning and design efforts for the new $77 million Health Informatics building at NIU, which was included in the state’s capital budget this year.
Announced in October 2018, NICCS is part of the IIN, a group of 15 research and innovation centers aimed at driving economic growth in Illinois and addressing critical global issues. The centers will support interdisciplinary research, policy development, and public-private partnerships to stimulate economic development and job creation, as well as to attract and develop talent.
“We are very excited by Gov. Pritzker’s dedication to this project,” said NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman. “NICCS will strengthen Illinois by creating locally based innovative solutions focused on improving food systems and water resource management in a world facing shrinking natural resources, changing climate, and increasing urbanization,” Dr. Freeman said.
All NICCS initiatives will be multidisciplinary and will recast research findings into policy options for local communities.
The 30,000-square-foot NICCS facility will be constructed on the university’s west campus, north of the NIU Convocation Center. It will include classrooms, laboratories, exhibits and collaboration space for work with IIN and private sector partners. Early projections call for construction to begin in 2021 with the facility coming online in 2023.
As part of the state budget approved in June, the state designated $77 million for the construction of a Health Informatics building that will unify health-related programs on the NIU campus.
“We are thrilled to begin work on this project as it will address a long-standing need by bringing together a number of outstanding programs and clinics operated by the College of Health and Human Sciences,” said Dr. Freeman. “Doing so will promote collaboration and innovation, inspiring not only breakthroughs in technology, but also breakthroughs in creative thinking about how technology can be used to promote health and wellness.”
The facility also will encourage community and external partnerships and create philanthropic opportunities to enhance programming and research priorities. All of these objectives will be at the forefront of the planning process as the design process begins. No goal for the opening of the building has been set.
A crucial first step in the planning process for the Health Informatics building is determining where the facility will be located. A campus-wide survey later this month will help inform that decision.