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Bradley Hilltopics

Winter 2008 • Volume 14, Issue 1

The innovators of Peoria NEXT I Bradley’s connection I The NEXT step in stem cell research I Where progress is showcased I Collaborating with Caterpillar

Firefly electrical engineering interns

Jamin Williams ’07, left, and Nick Viera ’07 are electrical engineering interns at Firefly, a Caterpillar Inc. spinoff company involved in the research and development of a lightweight lead acid battery. Firefly is one of several companies launched with the help of Peoria NEXT, an organization whose focus is to promote research and development as a means to stimulate economic development in the area. Firefly employs several Bradley alumni.


Bradley’s connection

Dr. Peter Johnsen, Bradley’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, chairs the Peoria NEXT board. He recalls, “Peoria NEXT began in early 2000 as a conversation in the Bradley boardroom during a meeting convened by [former Bradley president] David Broski, who was interested in promoting collaborative research. As we began to talk about what we wanted to do in our community, we developed a philosophy of how we were going to work. We determined Peoria NEXT’s role is to champion a point of view, create new ideas, be a rallying point, but the work is to be done by anchor and partner organizations.”

Anchor organizations come from medical, educational, federal, state, and business entities, including Bradley (a list of organizations is on the front page of this article). Though individual interests vary, participants have a common goal: to focus on research and development as a means to stimulate economic development. Peoria NEXT accomplishes this through three strategies: discovery, innovation, and commercialization.

Johnsen explains,“Bradley University played a key role particularly in implementation of the discovery strategy that supports research. Many Bradley faculty members receive seed money for research. The late Ellen Durges Foster ’52 made a $1 million gift to launch Peoria NEXT. That money was used for early organizational activities and programs, but the majority continues to be used to promote collaborative research.”

He adds, “Our first task to support commercialization was to raise funding for startup companies based on intellectual property coming out of the anchor organizations. We began with spinoff companies like Firefly from Caterpillar and zuChem and iSoy from the Ag Lab.”

Discussing Bradley’s involvement in Peoria NEXT, Johnsen comments, “Our strategic plan calls for the University to enter into partnerships to provide benefits to the community and society. Many universities have seen multiple benefits from becoming involved in outreach activities. We want to create opportunities for our students and graduates. By partnering, we help each other, but also help ourselves.”

 

The innovators of Peoria NEXT I Bradley’s connection I The NEXT step in stem cell research I Where progress is showcased I Collaborating with Caterpillar