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Notre Dame receives grant to promote innovation in South Bend-Elkhart region

| Monday, April 29, 2019

Notre Dame was awarded a $42.4 million grant from Lilly Endowment to fund the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Network, which the University will use to strengthen and support technology, innovation and workforce development throughout the South Bend and Elkhart region, the University announced in a press release Friday.

The Lilly Endowment is an endowment for “promotion and support of religious, educational or charitable purposes,” according to the organization’s website.

“We are grateful to Lilly Endowment, which made this day possible, as did its encouragement of the fundamental rethinking that is often needed to respond to new challenges and changing circumstances,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said. “All of us share a common, hopeful vision for our region’s future. We who live and work in the region know that a quiet transformation is underway, and that the Lilly Endowment grant is a powerful catalyst for a brighter, resilient future.”

The grant, which will last for five years, will be a collaboration between Notre Dame and the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership (SBERP), in addition to other stakeholders in the region, to “further advance the region as an economic leader in next-generation manufacturing, entrepreneurship, applied analytics and technology,” the release said.

The release said leaders in the region want to see a combined $170 investment in the LIFT network. In addition to the original grant money, the Lilly Endowment also has a $4 million matching condition, according to the release.

“The South Bend-Elkhart region has important core strengths, including Notre Dame’s extraordinary educational and research capabilities; a strong industrial base, especially the companies and talented employees in the area’s exceptional mobility cluster; and compelling opportunities in diversified sectors such as IT and data analytics,” Rob Smith, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for community development, said. “The LIFT Network will connect and strengthen these assets in ways that will help enhance the quality of life for the people in the region.”   

The long-term vision of the LIFT network is fourfold, the release said. Goals include improving research, faculty and student knowledge to support innovation in technology and business; educating and training professionals to advance to advanced sectors; ensuring that regional manufacturing companies have the tools they need to become a competitive business worldwide and to develop the region as a whole to become a center of technology and industry, the release said.

“Our economic vitality, community leadership, culture of collaboration and optimism for the future are stronger than ever,” Regina Emberton, president and chief executive officer of SBERP, said. “The LIFT Network will link the region’s industrial, academic and technology assets, presenting a transformational opportunity for the ongoing development of the regional economy.”

The money from the Lilly Endowment grant will empower the LIFT Network to initiate several projects, the release said. These include creating iNDustry Labs at Innovation Park to provide industry professionals with cutting-edge technology and collaboration with students and faculty; launching innovative research, development and training facilities at sites across the region; establishing applied learning programs in industry fields and introduce the LIFT Catalyst Fund to provide grants to nonprofit organizations and educational organizations to finance projects that promote innovation in the South Bend-Elkhart region.

“We believe that the LIFT Network will be a catalyst for workforce and economic development in the region, enabling local employers to be more competitive, adaptive and resilient in an increasingly fast-paced global economy,” Gary Neidig, president of Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies, said. “As a LIFT Network member, we welcome iNDustry Labs professionals working with our team to identify areas for innovation and to increase investments in research and development so that new technologies become future opportunities for growth.”

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