IMEC Announces Eight Future of Illinois Grant Recipients

This grant allows faculty from Illinois universities and community colleges to contribute to innovative solutions that will help manufacturers navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead.

PEORIA, Ill., June 7, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) awarded eight Future of Illinois grants to faculty from Illinois universities and community colleges. IMEC's Future of Illinois Manufacturing report highlights the significant change and opportunity ahead for Illinois manufacturers. The purpose of this grant program is to engage faculty on innovative solutions that will help Illinois manufacturing prepare for the future. The total investment of these grant awards exceeds $650,000.

"We are thrilled with the innovative solutions that Illinois academia presented to help Illinois manufacturers embrace the future of manufacturing," said IMEC President David Boulay, Ph.D. "From developing our rural workforce to data analytics, to sustainability and cybersecurity, there is incredible potential in these grant awards."

The eight grant recipients and award topics are listed below:

Leveraging Data Analytics and Artificial
Intelligence for Smarter Manufacturing

  • Azadeh Haghighi, Ph.D., Faculty Member and Director of the Smarture Lab Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department
  • University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)

Scaling Manufacturing Workforce in Rural

  • Joy Fitts, Associate Dean of Workforce Engagement & Industrial Careers
  • Kaskaskia College

Enhancing Resilience and Sustainability for Small Manufacturing Enterprises in Southern Illinois

  • James A. Mathias, Associate Professor, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Materials Engineering
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU)

3D Printing Gateway to Manufacturing

  • David Girzadas, Dean, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing
  • Richard J. Daley College

Industrial Electrical Technology (IET) Flex-Lab

  • Steven Flinn, Professor, Agricultural & Industrial Tech
  • Illinois Central College (ICC)

Cybersecurity Innovation

  • David Hetzler, Dean of Career and Technical Education
  • John Wood Community College (JWCC)

Review Remote Hands-On Course for Working Engineers

  • Dr. Benedito J. B. Fonseca Jr., Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering
  • Northern Illinois University (NIU)

Testbed for Experimenting with Industrial IoT and Cybersecurity Integration in Small Manufacturing

  • Kanchan Mondal, Director, Mechanical, Aerospace & Materials Engineering
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU)

All applications were carefully reviewed by the IMEC leadership team and Board of Directors. The eight applicants above were selected based on their expected impact on the Illinois manufacturing community and the amount of input from small and mid-sized manufacturers that will be utilized in the creation of each of these programs.

About IMEC

IMEC is a team of improvement specialists who are dedicated to changing lives and creating a positive impact on Illinois' workforce and economy. With a mission to drive growth through enterprise excellence, they help organizations become more effective and efficient by identifying issues, developing and implementing solutions, and providing the necessary support that will allow manufacturers to excel in areas of leadership, strategy, customer engagement, operations, workforce, and measurement and results. In 2021, IMEC assisted over 1,600 companies and helped create or retain over 5,679 jobs, resulting in over $450M aggregate impact to the Illinois economy. IMEC has seven offices statewide and approximately 50 full-time industry improvement specialists. For more information, visit

IMEC is one of 51 MEP Centers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. MEP Centers are part of the MEP National Network, which includes the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) and over 1000 manufacturing experts at over 400 service locations, with the tools and resources to help U.S. manufacturers succeed and advance U.S. manufacturing. Being that each Center is a public-private partnership, they are able to connect manufacturers with government agencies, universities and research facilities, trade associations, and many more resources that foster growth and innovation. In 2021, the MEP National Network helped manufacturers create and retain over 125,000 jobs. Find your local MEP Center here.


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