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July 19, 2000

Ryan awards $2.4 million in tech challege grants; VentureTECH board named

CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan and the newly-created VentureTECH Advisory Committee today awarded $2.4 million in state Technology Challenge Grants to businesses and universities that are leading Illinois' drive into the high-tech economy of the 21st Century.

The new 27-member VentureTECH advisory committee will advise Ryan on the future direction of the state's $1.9 billion technology initiative and explore new areas for overall development of technology initiatives.

"VentureTECH is a bold new investment in Illinois' future that includes dozens of projects that move Illinois to the forefront of the new global economy," Ryan said. "The advisory committee will provide us with guidance to ensure that we are taking advantage of current trends, as well as the vast educational and research resources in the state. The committee will help us design long-range plans to keep Illinois at the forefront."

VentureTECH Advisory Committee members were present at the groundbreaking in the Chicago Technology Park for a new $2 million building to house the Litholink Corporation, a growing company born at the Technology Park's small business incubator facility. Once completed, the new facility will employ 50 high-tech workers who will manufacture a diagnostic kit that helps people determine the likelihood of their developing a second kidney stone.

The Technology Challenge Grants, administered by the department of Commerce and Community Affairs, is designed to fund science and technology projects, partnerships between universities and industry, high-tech commercialization projects, transfer projects and imfrastrcuture improvements.

"Dating back to the days of John Deere and Cyrus McCormick, Illinois has always been at the forefront in technological innovations," Ryan said. "Through the support of projects like these, we can ensure that Illinois remains a leader in the development of products and procedures that benefit both our economy and quality of life."

"It's imperative that we continue supporting the work of these companies and researchers in meeting the demands of the new economy," said DCCA Director Pam McDonough. "The results of their research will lead to new products that not only benefit other Illinois companies, but also pave the way for even more technological applications and discoveries."

Projects supported by the Technology Grant Program include Argonne National Laboratory's development of a near frictionless carbon coating process that can be scaled-up in size to benefit Illinois manufacturers. Unwanted friction and wear accounts for an estimated $120 billion in losses in the United States. The work of another grantee, STAT Analysis, could vastly improve the cleanup of contaminated sites in urban and industrial locations through the use of elecktrokinetic remediation.

The VentureTECH program is one of the reasons that the State of Illinois recently received the second highest ranking among the states for technology administration from the Center for Digital Government and the Progress & Freedom Foundation, said Mary Reynolds, Illinois' Chief Technology Officer.

"We are finding ways to use technology as a tool to help us be more effective, efficient and accountable. State government must work continuously to improve interactions with citizens and to focus on our clients. We will continue to focus on government services. Technology allows us to do just that," Reynolds added.

The Center for Digital Government and the Progress & Freedom Foundation recently presented the results as part of the third annual Digital State Survey. Illinois is ranked second in the information technology management and administration issues. The study, published in the July issue of Government Technology magazine, highlights Illinois as the "most improved" among the states.

"When our administration first took office, the same survey ranked Illinois 49th in the nation," Ryan said. "Just one year later, we are showing that Illinois can leap-frog the nation and deliver services in more effective ways."

Previous results of the Digital State Survey released in 2000 ranked Illinois eighth in electronic commerce and taxation, 22nd in social services, 12th in law enforcement & the courts, and seventh in digital democracy. The education phase of the survey may be released in October.

A list of VentureTECH Advisory Board Members, the Executive Order and grant projects are attached.

Technology Challenge Grant Program

Argonne National Laboratory - Funding Amount: $200,000
Project: Development of an Industrial NFC Coater Based on Abar-Ispen Plasma Nitriding Technology. This project will demonstrate that a near frictionless carbon (NFC) coating process can be scaled-up in size to meet the production volume(s), cost, and coating performance of industrial products manufactured in Illinois.

Bio-Imaging Research, Inc - Funding Amount: $839,599
Project: Advanced Development for Three-Dimensional X-ray Imaging. This project will develop high-speed image processing circuit boards for medical and industrial CT and an x-ray CT mammography scanner to see smaller tumors before they get dangerous, and do it without painful breast compression. The target markets for the circuit boards are radiology, weather forecasting, digital effects for movies, military applications and scientific research. The CT mammography is the only 3-D picture available for breast scanning and will be priced lower than the nearest competition.

Illinois Institute of Technology - Funding Amount: $600,000
Project: Research and Development on Cooling of Intense Muon Beams. This project will allow a consortium of universities (IIT, NIU, NWU, U of Chicago) to complete an initial research agenda designed to establish a five-year program to participate in technical investigations and site-specific planning for future Fermilab projects. The program will enable Fermilab to remain competitive in the high-energy physics global market that is being threatened by a Large Hadron Collider (LHC) being constructed in Europe. The first project is to develop the muon cooling technology consisting of the design, prototyping, and testing of liquid-hydrogen energy absorbers for muon cooling, conceptual design of mechanical support structure for the entire MUCOOL apparatus, MUCOOL experiment design, muon beams and instrumentation, understanding large-aperture transport, and education and outreach.

Illinois Institute of Technology - Funding Amount: $200,000
Project: Thermal Processing Technology Center. This (three-year) project will develop new industrial members (special effort to attract Illinois companies), work to secure designation as a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, work to promote technology transfer of results and capabilities to Illinois companies, secure other funding for the Center to increase its reach and available experimental facilities, provide free consulting support to Illinois technology service providers and to conduct research useful to Illinois companies.

Influx, Inc. - Funding Amount: $98,000
Project: Potentiators of Fluconazole activity in Candida. This project will focus on the discovery and development of therapies that combat the growing problem of antibiotic resistance - specifically treatment of life threatening fungal infections. Fluconazole, the drug of choice, does not kill a fungal infection but only arrests its growth, with hope the patient's immune system will eradicate the infection (an unsuitable solution for those with immuno-compromised systems). The project will allow for continuing toxicity trials and efficacy tests to establish "proof of principle" and begin chemical synthesis of variations of the best drug to develop for maximum efficacy and minimum toxicity.

Spectragen, Inc. - Funding Amount$110,750
Project: Growth Technology for Large-Scale, High Purity Fluoride Optical Crystals. This project will develop crystal growth processing and materials processing that will yield crystals that meet the performance criteria for UV lasers. Crystal characterization will include trace element analysis, spectroscopy and measurement of optical homogeneity. The growth in the semiconductor and ophthalmology industries is driving the demand for lasers emitting radiation in the UV range. The ability to grow crystals that can be used in these lasers is the goal of the grant. The target markets for the crystals are the military, medical and commercial laser industries.

STAT Analysis - Funding Amount: $267,900
Project: Development of Integrated Electrokinetic Remediation for Clean Up of Contaminated Sites. This project will assess the feasibility of using integrated electrokinetic remediation technology for the cleanup of contaminated sites in industrial and urban locations. The study will conduct soil analysis, assess toxicity, evaluate efficiency of the technology, and assess economic impacts of the technology. Electrokinetics involves placing electrodes to encompass the contaminated media and applying a very low electric potential. Electrokinetics advantages over conventional remedies are: simplicity, safety, cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and the ability to work with a wide range of contaminants and soil types.

Board of Trustees - University of Illinois - Funding Amount: $171,671
Project: Next Generation of Ultra-bright, Non-organic Markers for Ultra-sensitive Fluorescence Analysis in Living Cells. This project will develop a new generation of optical markers of biomolecules through research in ultra-fast optics and biophysical technology. Presently, the study and manipulation of biological material at the single-cell and single molecule level is hampered by unstable and unsafe - carcinogenic methods. The developed technology has synthesized ultrasmall (nanoparticle) silicon markers that are brighter, safer and more practical than the organic or compound semiconductor markers currently available. The project will focus on the production of particles, surface derivitization of silicon nanoparticles, and alternatives to organic fluorophores. The technology will make possible future advances in living cell activity, heart activity, and bacterial contamination of foodstuffs.


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