Ed Kaplan Innovation Center Opens At Illinois Institute of Technology

The Illinois Institute of Technology recently opened the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, a 70,000 square foot innovation center. The center uses innovative materials to control energy usage and bring sunlight into the building. For instance, ETFE foil weighs only one percent as much as glass and helps reduce solar heat. Furthermore, the flat roof is ideal for solar panels, which will hopefully be added in the future.

The architect, John Ronan, referred to the Institute as “an idea factory, a place of creative collision… where new ideas are explored and tested on their way to becoming meaningful innovations.”

The $37 million center will be used by engineering students to collaborate with businesses on R&D projects. This collaboration between industry and universities is critical to achieving greater innovation and commercialization. Projects will range from electric vehicles to the Internet of Things, with a specific focus on clean energy technology. Inside, there are classrooms, exhibition spaces and areas for prototyping and fabrication.

Project leader, Howard Tullman, said that one of the problems they aim to solve is the ‘last-mile problem,’ by finding a zero-carbon footprint transportation solution for short trips, such as autonomous electric vehicles.

There are already 100 graduate students using the building. The center will aim to teach students innovative techniques and will provide management skills to encourage entrepreneurship. This will also help graduates increase their pay at higher executive levels.

Illinois has been focusing heavily on clean energy for the past few years. The 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act and Illinois Power Agency’s plan to increase its reliance on renewables have sparked a wave of action by local businesses and institutions.

The building will be fully functional by January.

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