iFAB partners commit $680 million, seek EDA funding for Central Illinois biomanufacturing hub

Beth Conerty, Carly McCrory-McKay, and Nicole Bateman (L-R) helped form the iFAB Tech Hub to spur economic growth and job creation in Central Illinois through biomanufacturing and precision fermentation. Photo credit: Anna Longworth Photography
Beth Conerty, Carly McCrory-McKay, and Nicole Bateman (L-R) helped form the iFAB Tech Hub to spur economic growth and job creation in Central Illinois through biomanufacturing and precision fermentation. Photo credit: Anna Longworth Photography

A 31-partner consortium seeks $70 million from EDA to help create jobs, expand commodity markets, and drive zero-emission manufacturing efforts in Champaign, Piatt, and Macon Counties.

URBANA, Ill. — Today the Illinois Fermentation and Agriculture Biomanufacturing Tech Hub (iFAB) announces nearly $680 million in commitments from partners — to be catalyzed by potential funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) — at a press conference hosted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Innovate Illinois in the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

iFAB is one of 31 Regional Innovation and Technology Hubs that qualifies for $45 to 70 million in Phase 2 Implementation grant funding from the EDA, which was made possible by the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to spur innovation and job creation and ensure national security in the U.S. 

Last week, the iFAB consortium — led by the IBRL with 31 partners from academia, industry, government, and nonprofits — submitted a proposal to catalyze biomanufacturing and precision fermentation industry growth in Champaign, Piatt, and Macon counties. 

“The Tech Hub designation, announced in October 2023, has spurred our iFAB partners to commit $680 million to realize our vision for Illinois to become the heart of biomanufacturing. With the EDA’s support, we can lock in thousands of jobs and secure billions in market potential,” said iFAB principal investigator Beth Conerty, the associate director of business development at IBRL, part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and The Grainger College of Engineering

iFAB partner contributions include cash match and strategic investments — including cash matches from a third of consortium members and infrastructure upgrades valued at $118 million that will benefit biomanufacturing projects in Decatur. 

Phase 2 Implementation grant funding would support the growing biomanufacturing entrepreneurial ecosystem, critical infrastructure projects for lab space and multi-use facilities, and much-needed workforce development training programs led by Parkland College and Richland Community College and initiatives led by the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 149 and the Decatur Building & Construction Trades Council

The Economic Development Corporations (EDC) in Champaign County and Decatur & Macon Counties, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), and Intersect Illinois are ready to leverage these initiatives to attract more companies to the region.

Precision fermentation is a growing area of biomanufacturing that turns corn and soybeans into textiles, biofuels, food ingredients, polymers, pigments, and more. This sustainable, scalable, and biological manufacturing process relies on microbes to convert sugars into high-value products.

“The precision biomanufacturing industry is bringing revolutionary change to everything from how we feed the world to how we actually manufacture that world — in sustainable and clean ways,” said U. of I. Chancellor Robert J. Jones at the press conference. “This is expected to become a 200-billion industry that creates one million new jobs within the next 15 years alone, and as the iFAB proposal has laid out so clearly, there is no place on this planet better positioned to be the heart of that global industry than right here in downstate Illinois.”

Following the press conference, Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski and DCEO Director Kristin Richards hosted an exclusive roundtable event with iFAB consortia members to discuss the future of the project.

Current estimates project that the global precision fermentation capacity must increase by 20 times to meet projected demand, specifically in food and materials markets. Illinois's strategic location, wide-ranging expertise, and existing infrastructure make it an ideal location for industry growth. 

About iFAB
The Illinois Fermentation and Agriculture Biomanufacturing Tech Hub (iFAB) 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 R&D, industry leaders, innovative startups, scalable infrastructure, abundant feedstock production, unparalleled transportation networks, and strong relationships with corn and soybean suppliers within a 51-mile radius. This unique “lab-to-line” approach will establish the iFAB region (Champaign, Piatt, Macon counties) as the preeminent destination for the biomanufacturing industry.

About Innovate Illinois
Innovate Illinois, a public-private initiative, orchestrates a coordinated effort to harness federal funding opportunities provided by landmark legislation such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. By capitalizing on these resources, Innovate Illinois is set to fast-track the state into an era of unprecedented technological and economic advancement.

Media Contact
Claire Benjamin
Director of Communications
College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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