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Homeland Security Center Will Specialize in Transportation

October 7, 2005 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In an effort to grow the homeland security industry in Illinois, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today (Oct. 7) announced the launch of the Homeland Security Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (HSIEC) at Northwestern University, which will specialize in transportation and logistical security needs.

The University, the Illinois Technology Enterprise Center (ITEC) in Evanston and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will be partners in the center. The center will bring small- and mid-sized Illinois businesses together with Northwestern faculty members to collaborate on research that will lead to commercialization of new technologies and new products and services for the homeland security market.

Entrepreneurs will receive business support at the center, including management assistance and coaching, product development and technology commercialization advice, market intelligence and access to funding.

“Northwestern University is pleased to be a partner with the State of Illinois in this initiative to strengthen homeland security,” said University President Henry S. Bienen. “Building on the exceptional track record of the ITEC, the Homeland Security Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center will be an excellent vehicle for helping Illinois companies translate leading-edge research into products for the homeland security market.”

The HSIEC is well positioned to offer homeland security consultation, in addition to transportation and logistics business development assistance on both a state and national level. The state’s investment in the center is based on Northwestern’s research excellence in fields related to homeland security as well as its transportation expertise, as evidenced by its Infrastructure Technology Institute, Transportation Center, Center for Public Safety and International Institute for Nanotechnology.

The center also will extend business investments to help Illinois companies bring innovative products to market and create jobs by offering Illinois Entrepreneurship Network Challenge Grants. These grants provide $5,000 in matching funds to help small businesses develop.

The HSIEC’s first $5,000 Challenge Grant was awarded to the Evanston-based Ohmx Corporation to help the company with strategic business development support as it strives to bring cutting-edge products to market, including a low-cost, disposable biosensor chip to detect a variety of targets, including bacteria, viruses, toxins and mold, and a reusable biosensor reader, similar in size to a personal digital assistant (PDA). These products will allow emergency responders to electronically detect targets, providing immediate and accurate testing results on-site.

The Homeland Security Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (HSIEC), one of 15 entrepreneurship centers created by The Illinois Entrepreneurship Center Network, was launched with $350,000 in Opportunity Returns support from the State of Illinois and is the only entrepreneurship center with a homeland security focus. Bret Johnson will direct the center.

Today, some of the most rapid advancements in transportation and logistics are being made in the biotech industry as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security looks to the private sector for solutions to monitor goods, both entering the United States and traveling within our borders.

The HSIEC’s specialized focus in transportation security and logistics is more critical today than ever before as international trade increases. Illinois is the center of an international shipping and logistics network formed by a concentration of interstate, rail, aviation and maritime infrastructure. Twenty percent of the U.S. economy is comprised of transportation, logistics and trade activity, and Illinois’ distribution and shipping networks handle an impressive volume of these goods -- 88.5 million tons shipped annually by rail and 6.1 million tons by truck.

Topics: Research