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iFAB Receives  Million Grant from EDA Tech Hubs to Propel Central Illinois as a Leader in Biomanufacturing

iFAB Receives $51 Million Grant from EDA Tech Hubs to Propel Central Illinois as a Leader in Biomanufacturing

iFAB Receives  Million Grant from EDA Tech Hubs to Propel Central Illinois as a Leader in Biomanufacturing

URBANA, Illinois — The Illinois Fermentation and Agricultural Biomanufacturing Technology Center (iFAB) has been awarded approximately $51 million from the Technology Center Program through the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. The iFAB consortium, led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will receive a Phase 2 Implementation grant to position Central Illinois as a global leader in precision fermentation and biomanufacturing, supporting national security, economic growth and job creation.

“The award of this grant is a testament to the hard work and collaboration of our partners and the strategic importance of leveraging biology as a manufacturing technology of the future. We are thrilled to lead this effort to make central Illinois the heart of biomanufacturing in the U.S. and beyond,” said Beth Conerty, iFAB’s regional innovation director and associate director of business development at the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory, part of the U. of I.’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Authorized by the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, EDA designated 31 regional innovation and technology centers that qualified for a Phase 2 implementation grant last October. Today, EDA revealed that iFAB is one of 12 designated technology centers selected to receive implementation funding.

“The Tech Hubs designation and Phase 2 funding are just the beginning – we are poised for continued growth and investment, with a strong focus on expanding our workforce, enhancing entrepreneurship, and further developing our technology capabilities,” said iFAB Leader Carly McCrory-McKay, CEO of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation. “The commitment and collaboration of our partners – from higher education and government agencies to industry leaders and startups – has been instrumental in getting us to this point. Their expertise, resources, and innovative spirit are key to our strategy as we drive these critical initiatives forward. The future of iFAB is bright, and together, we are setting new standards for what can be achieved in biomanufacturing right here in central Illinois.”

The EDA Phase 2 grant will address support needs for a broad spectrum of biomanufacturing companies that are developing precision fermentation innovations to create high-value, zero-emission products from agricultural feedstocks. By leveraging microbes to transform local feedstocks (primarily corn and soybeans) into a variety of products such as textiles, biofuels, food ingredients, and more, these efforts could revolutionize domestic manufacturing. The precision fermentation industry is projected to reach $200 billion by 2040, with the potential to support one million jobs by 2030.

This funding announcement follows strategic discussions in Washington, DC, where the importance of biomanufacturing to national security was emphasized, as well as Central Illinois’ unique capabilities to position itself as the epicenter of biomanufacturing in the U.S.

“Central Illinois is uniquely positioned to lead the way in biomanufacturing, leveraging an ecosystem of industry leaders, innovative startups, world-class R&D, scalable infrastructure, abundant feedstock production, and robust transportation networks,” said Nicole Bateman, iFAB leader and president of the Decatur and Macon County Economic Development Corporation. “This historic investment in iFAB’s vision and infrastructure will enable the U.S. to compete with Europe and China, which have been investing heavily in this space.”

Ultimately, the Phase II implementation grant will strengthen iFAB’s ability to attract and support companies joining the growing biomanufacturing ecosystem in Champaign, Piatt and Macon counties.

Expansion of bioprocessingThe EDA grant will help realize a $40 million expansion of IBRL, which will include upgrading the fermenter capacity to 1,500 liters.

Expansion of the production line:Primient and Synonym will receive funding to achieve 13,000 liters of fermentation capacity; ADM will use Phase 2 funding to upgrade its precision fermentation facility to 80,000 liters. This significant investment solidifies Decatur’s role as a key player in Central Illinois’ expanding biomanufacturing corridor.

Management of the iFAB technology centre: The EDA grant will support management of the iFAB technology center, formalizing the leadership roles of Conerty, McCrory-McKay, and Bateman, as well as Laura Appenzeller, associate vice chancellor for innovation and executive director of the University of Illinois Research Park, and Kim Kidwell, associate chancellor for partnerships and strategic initiatives at the University of Illinois. Brian Jacobson, associate director of strategic operations at IBRL, will serve as the infrastructure development program manager. iFAB will hire additional staff to support these efforts.

iFAB is supported by the Innovate Illinois coalition, a strategic initiative led by Governor JB Pritzker and co-chaired by University of Illinois Chancellor Robert J. Jones.

“Today’s EDA grant not only recognizes but actively advances our mission to establish Central Illinois as a pivotal player in biomanufacturing globally. With these new resources, we are equipped to accelerate our initiatives, ensuring our region not only meets but sets the gold standard for biomanufacturing innovation,” Jones said. “This partnership exemplifies how the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign can leverage its expertise and resources to drive progress and prosperity in our own backyard.”

About iFABThe Illinois Fermentation and Agricultural Biomanufacturing (iFAB) technology hub is poised to become the global leader in precision fermentation and biomanufacturing, an industry expected to grow to $200 billion over the next 15 years. Leveraging biology as a manufacturing technology of the future, iFAB is uniquely uniting world-class research and development, industry leaders, innovative startups, scalable infrastructure, abundant raw material production, unparalleled transportation networks, and strong relationships with corn and soybean suppliers within a 51-mile radius. This unique lab-to-line approach establishes the iFAB region (Champaign, Piatt, and Macon counties) as the preeminent destination for the biomanufacturing industry.