A Web of Regional Innovation

by Jan Wright, Publisher

Welcome to 2019—and what better way to ring in the new year than with an issue dedicated to innovation! Why is innovation so important? It is a critical differentiator for businesses and organizations. It’s the key to entrepreneurship. It drives economic growth. It creates a better future. 

But “innovation is not just our future,” writes Chris Setti of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council (EDC). “It’s been our past and is our present. It is part of the very fabric of our community. And that fabric is about to get stronger.” 

A recent study ranked Peoria among the most innovative cities in the United States, citing the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center at Bradley University for bringing together researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs in a collaborative environment. In fact, all kinds of innovation initiatives have taken hold in recent years, building on our region’s well-known strengths.

OSF Innovation brings together multidisciplinary teams to solve some of healthcare’s most complex problems, while the new UnityPoint Health Innovation Center is developing breakthrough ideas of its own. Firms like Precision Planting and 360 Yield Center are at the forefront of a revolution in precision agriculture. Caterpillar and Komatsu have long led the way in manufacturing innovation. Bradley University, Illinois Central College, the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, and the Peoria Ag Lab are significant innovators as well. 

All of these institutions, along with many other community partners, are working together to build our region’s future—one that’s based on innovation and driven by collaboration and diversity. They realize that new solutions are unlikely to be found in silos, but are created by working across disciplines. They understand that growth in one area can spur growth in another. By building on Greater Peoria’s already-formidable strengths, we can unlock new economic opportunities. 

A new initiative dubbed Nexmobi is building a platform for autonomous mobility technology testing and research, guiding our region into this rapidly growing, cutting-edge space. Another group of collaborators is working to bring 5G wireless technologies to Peoria—yet another revolution in the making. And the recently announced Peoria Innovation Hub will be a game-changer, bringing academic and community resources together to solve real-world problems and turn solutions into businesses.

This interconnected, multidisciplinary web of regional innovation is sure to cultivate big ideas that push our region forward. What lies ahead in 2019? The sky appears to be the limit. iBi