Ameren opens new center at Research Park, headed by alumnus Owen Doyle


Ashish Valentine, ECE ILLINOIS

Ameren Corporation recently finished moving into its new Innovation Center at the Research Park at the University of Illinois.

Alumnus Owen Doyle (BSEE ’02) is heading the new space, where he will coordinate Ameren research projects with interns from the University of Illinois. Many of these interns come from engineering, with electrical engineering junior Lee Gill and senior Kenya Ansah from ECE already represented there.

The interns will be working on a variety of projects. One focus of the Ameren Innovation Center will be mobile app development, both on the front end to help customers better interact with the company, and on the back end to help company employees better coordinate efforts.

“We’re at a really important time in the electric utility industry, as we start transitioning to smart grid technologies,” Doyle said. “A lot of the research we’ll be doing will focus on data analytics, and gathering as much information about the grid as possible, then analyzing that information to improve reliability, grid security, and customer satisfaction.”

The Innovation Center will hire 10 to 12 interns for each semester, and hopes that the center will function at least in part as a way for highly successful interns to have a future at Ameren.

Chancellor Phyllis Wise at the grand opening of Ameren's Innovation Center.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise at the grand opening of Ameren's Innovation Center.

“That’s one of the great benefits being here - we can create a pipeline to future employment at Ameren if the intern is a great fit,” Doyle said. “We have a portion of our workforce that’s going to be retiring soon, and we will need to find a way to transfer their knowledge base to the next generation of employees. This is the perfect way to bring new people in and show them the ropes.”

Doyle noted that the interns are coming in at a transformative moment in the power industry: the grid itself is changing, and the needs and skills required of its engineers are changing as well. 

“It’s important to improve and modernize the grid and that requires technical expertise and for us to embrace innovation,” Doyle said. “A great upshot of this new center is getting new ideas into what’s been a historically slow-changing field.”

An important part of the interns’ experience at the new center is being actively invested in their projects, Doyle said. The interns won’t simply cherry-pick from projects handed down from above, but rather will collaborate with Doyle to figure out what lies within their interests that could help Ameren.

“A lot of the point of this is really letting the interns experience the whole project phase,” Doyle said. “They’ll be coming up with original ideas, meeting deliverables, updating us on their progress, and coming out with an excellent finished product.”