A $42.4 million grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. will create an initiative focused on cutting-edge research, technologies, innovation and jobs of the future in the South Bend-Elkhart region. The University of Notre Dame this morning announced the grant and the planned creation of the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation, or LIFT, Network. Leadership from the university, South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership and community hope the investment will help mute the expected impact of digital automation and artificial intelligence on jobs in the region.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership Chief Executive Officer Regina Emberton discussed the goal of the LIFT Network.
"Our area is heavily focused in manufacturing. Obviously, worldwide, there is so much disruption happening with innovation and automation in the manufacturing industry and what we want to do is be sure that our companies and our employees are prepared to take advantage of that," said Emberton. "The LIFT Network and the associated industry labs are all about training workforce for future jobs and helping companies access innovation resources so that they can have that R&D happening right here in the region and in the state of Indiana, helping our companies grow and helping make sure that we’re able to provide the talent that they need to succeed in such a globally-competitive environment as we go forward."
A 2019 Brookings Institution report named South Bend-Elkhart as the third most vulnerable workforce in the nation to the disruptive impact of automation. The five-year grant, which includes a partial match, could grow to nearly $170 million with additional funding from regional partners. "We are grateful to Lilly Endowment, which made this day possible, as did its encouragement of the fundamental rethinking that is often needed to respond to new challenges and changing circumstances," said Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins in a university news release.
Here’s how the university describes the long-term vision of the LIFT Network:
- To leverage the research strength, faculty expertise and student creativity at regional higher education institutions to support innovation in technology, business models and skill development.
- To generate, educate, train and retain talent to sustain industry and economic growth in advanced sectors.
- To ensure that current regional manufacturing companies have the resources and capacity to innovate and become globally competitive.
- To develop the region as a globally competitive hub of applied analytics and technology along with other emerging industry sectors in the region.
The LIFT Network is the sixth regional community and economic development initiative Lilly Endowment has supported statewide since 2007.
South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership Chief Executive Officer Regina Emberton discussed the goal of the LIFT Network.