On April 28, Southern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees approved agreements clearing the way for a new multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research and economic development hub, capitalizing on SIU Carbondale’s research into food, fermentation and biotechnology.
Illinois Food, Entrepreneurship, Research, and Manufacturing (iFERM) Hub will provide a state-of-the-art research and training suite for faculty use, students, start-up companies and private firms in the region. The suite, at the McLafferty Annex on the main campus’ far west side, will include a Biotechnology Core Laboratory, an Analytical Core Laboratory, a Business Support Annex and a Value-Added Agriculture Pilot Facility, and will be staffed by current university scientists and researchers.
The project has acquired $6.3 million in grant money from three agencies: Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity ($2.7 million), the Illinois Innovation Network ($2.5 million) and the SIU Foundation ($1.1 million). Taken together with several grants from related projects and matching in-kind funds from the university, the project has a total value of $13 million.
The iFERM Hub is aimed at solving food/nutrition, agriculture and health challenges through interdisciplinary research, innovation and education. It also will provide infrastructure for the development of Illinois agriculture value-added products to promote and support successful entrepreneurial activities. It also will benefit SIU students and researchers engaged in such pursuits and enhance public-private partnerships.
“This is a big project that has been in the works for several years as we pulled it together,” said Gary Kinsel, vice chancellor for research at SIU Carbondale. “When it is completed and operational, it will rival any such facility at any other university in the country.
“I’m optimistic it will be a real game-changer for both the university and the region.”
The board’s action today marks a milestone in bringing to life a vision for McLafferty Annex that campus leaders began forming a decade ago as the massive building would need another purpose than a temporary storage facility for Morris Library materials during a major remodel. The new project will involve about 13,900 square feet of the building’s approximately 65,000 gross square feet.
McLafferty annex also currently is home to the Fermentation Science Institute, the Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, and a laser facility, all of which are part of the new hub, as well.
The funding for the iFERM Hub began coming together in earnest during the last few years, as campus leaders applied for various state funds while also garnering industry support. Kinsel said plans call for bids going out this summer with construction slated for fall 2022 and anticipated completion in summer 2023. The university has engaged local firm White & Borgognoni Architects for the project.