DPI awards more than $1.5 million in second round of R&D seed grants

10/12/2021 Discovery Partners Institute

The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) announced $1.5 million in seed funding to 12 research teams from the University of Illinois System and additional partner universities including teams led by ECE faculty members Andrew Singer and Lav Varshney. 

Written by Discovery Partners Institute

September 29, 2021 (CHICAGO) — The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) announced $1.5 million in seed funding to 12 research teams from the University of Illinois System and additional partner universities.

Each team will receive $125,000 to start the journey to economic and societal impact. 

In addition to the seed funding, DPI will provide support for science teams to apply for new funding opportunities and commercialize their research. This includes grant-writing support, access to its network of corporate partners and space in DPI’s downtown Chicago office. 

These teams’ ambitions include:

  • Using drones and sensors to monitor and detect faults in bridges;
  • Quantifying highly detailed crop and soil characteristics across Illinois using remote sensing and artificial intelligence;
  • Developing software for the early detection for Type 2 Diabetes;
  • Building software to combat misinformation on social media; and
  • Using machine-learning to improve 14-day to 6-month weather forecasts.  
“At DPI we are committed to helping our teams connect, integrate, build and grow,” said Bill Jackson, DPI’s executive director. “We’re happy to support these 12 new teams on their journey to get their research and ideas to market. The addition and funding of these teams at DPI will help create jobs in Chicago and Illinois while promoting growth in our economy.”

This year 47 teams applied to join the ranks of the nine teams that were awarded more than $1 million in 2020. Each team is led by a University of Illinois System faculty member and includes peers from other universities and community partners, both national and international. 

“DPI will play matchmaker for our R&D teams, specifically helping them identify and match with funders that can help launch their businesses,” said Venkat Venkatakrishnan, DPI’s director of research.

Here is a complete list of grant recipients: 

1. The future is electric. Cities will transform, and we will simulate the best way for their transportation systems to make the transition to net-zero carbon emissions. 

Lead Primary Investigator (PI): Farhad Ansari, UIC Professor of Civil, Materials, and Environmental Engineering. Team: UIC, UIUC, Cardiff University, National Taiwan University

2. Using large sets of demographic, economic and environmental data, we will create models to help cities plan for a more resilient and equitable society.

Lead PI: Isabel Cruz, UIC Professor of Computer Science. Team: UIC, UIUC and National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

3. This team will develop non-destructive, drone-based monitoring approaches that will enable easier and more frequent structural assessments of bridges. 

Lead PI: Danilo Erricolo, UIC Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Team: UIC, National Research Council of Italy, University of Toronto, Tel Aviv University, and Droneasure.

4. Using remote sensing and artificial intelligence,, this team will work to quantify  highly detailed crop and soil characteristics in Illinois. The data will provide an invaluable resource to farmers, businesses and policymakers.

Lead PI: Kaiyu Guan, UIUC Associate Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Team: UIUC, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory.

5. This team aims to establish an international center of excellence for hearing research that will transform the field by using AI and big data to translate research into clinical solutions. 

Lead PI: Fatima Husain, UIUC Professor of Speech and Hearing Science.  Team: UIUC, Northwestern University, and Washington University.

6. Using electronic health records, this team will develop a tool for the detection of Type 2 Diabetes in people unaware of the condition and determine which treatments are most likely to be successful for individual patients.

Lead PI: Brian Layden, UIC Professor of Medicine.  Team:  UIC and Illinois Institute of Technology. 

7. This team will build easy-to-use software that will identify and label misinformation on social media websites.

Lead PI: Kevin Leicht, UIUC Professor of Sociology. Team: UIUC, University of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory. 

8. The mobility-on-demand lab will run policy experiments on ride-sharing platforms, such as Uber/Lyft/Via, to provide insights and recommendations to regulators and to the companies themselves. This research will focus on how to improve environmental, economic, and equity outcomes.

Lead PI: Peter Christensen, UIUC Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. Team:  UIUC.

9. This team will build a state-of-the-art acoustic generation space similar to those now available at only a few large companies. This resource will enable testing of new algorithms or audio devices, such as microphones or hearing aids, in a complex real-world environment, enabling smaller companies and researchers to make important advances in the field.

Andrew Carl Singer
Andrew Carl Singer
Lead PI: Andrew Carl Singer, UIUC Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Fox Family Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering
. Team:  UIUC, Tel Aviv University, Toyota Technological Institute of Chicago.  

10. This team will combine observations, numerical models and new machine-learning prediction methods to provide better 14-day to 6-month weather and climate forecasts.

Lead PI: Ryan Sriver, UIUC Associate Professor of Atmospheric Studies. Team:  UIUC and Illinois State Water Survey. 

11. This team will create an augmented reality application for rapid assessment of concrete and asphalt bridge deck health. This application will utilize sensor measurements, ubiquitous computing and machine learning.

Lead PI: Ann Sychterz, UIUC Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Team: UIUC and UIC. 

12.This team will build AI software that will help people remotely create and mix music together to enhance well-being.

Lav R Varshney
Lav R Varshney
Lead PI: Lav R Varshney, UIUC Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Team:  UIUC, University of Chicago, and Kocree.

About DPI
The Discovery Partners Institute’s ambition is to propel Chicago into a pre-eminent and inclusive tech economy over the next decade. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: tech talent development, applied R&D and business building. DPI prepares diverse students and workers to step into high-demand tech jobs. It also builds research teams and matches them with new funding. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.
Read the original article on the DPI website

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This story was published October 12, 2021.