Through various initiatives over the past six years, the University of Notre Dame has been an integral partner in helping to bridge gaps between researchers and industry in the South Bend-Elkhart region. By offering world-class expertise and state-of-the-art facilities, the University has supported local growth and prosperity with the creation of an innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization incubator and through the formation of programs that enhance and link cutting-edge research expertise, technologies, workforce development programs and innovation-based manufacturing enterprises throughout the region.
With the help of Lilly Endowment Inc., the University is now expanding its regional focus to challenges of public and environmental health. The University has had a number of active initiatives over the past several years that have helped to build capacity to address issues relating to public health and environmental stewardship and the many challenges at the intersection of health and environmental exposure. These local issues are a strategic priority for the University with a commitment to an expanded research focus, especially building on its expertise in data sciences.
The core of this expanded emphasis on public and environmental health will be located in a new, recently announced interdisciplinary research building in the East Campus Research Complex, thanks in part to a $35 million grant from Lilly Endowment.
“Key to the flourishing of our region are the health of the environment and the health of our population,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “We at Notre Dame welcome the chance to contribute to this region we call home. With Lilly Endowment’s generous support, Notre Dame is now further empowered and uniquely positioned to make a sustained impact on the quality of life in this area by contributing our expertise in data sciences, public health and environmental sciences to meet these challenges.
“We are truly grateful for Lilly Endowment’s trust in the University and its commitment to advancing the growth and development of the region,” Father Jenkins added. “We are honored to help solve some of our area’s most complex and important environmental and health issues and to do so for the betterment of the people of Indiana.”
“As one of three leading research universities in Indiana, Notre Dame is demonstrating an impressive willingness to collaborate for the betterment of the South Bend-Elkhart region and Indiana at large,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “This new research facility will enable Notre Dame to build upon its impressive data sciences and research capabilities to benefit to an even greater extent the region and state.”
In 2019, Lilly Endowment made a $42 million grant to Notre Dame to support the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Network. Notre Dame created the LIFT Network to help the University partner with regional community foundations, K-12 schools, businesses, colleges and universities and other stakeholders to strengthen workforce development programs and economic development, especially in areas of technology and advanced manufacturing. Since 2020, Notre Dame has been instrumental to the progress of AnalytiXIN, a Lilly Endowment-funded statewide project of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and BioCrossroads. AnalytiXIN is designed to promote innovations and build capacity in data sciences and forge stronger and mutually beneficial connections among Indiana’s key manufacturing and life sciences companies and Indiana universities.
The University is leveraging these collaborative strategies to build effective public and environmental health programs that will center on the collection and analysis of data so that challenges can be identified and solutions directed properly. Specifically, compared to other parts of the state, there is an existing gap in north-central Indiana for a public health data hub. Notre Dame will help to fill that void and address similar needs in the community and region.
The focus of the new research building will be multifaceted and cross-disciplinary in nature. It will include projects to develop and implement experiential learning opportunities for students connected to community organizations, increase environmental health projects that support the state and region and create a public health hub that will provide access to research, education and talent to organizations throughout the region and state.