UChicago and U.S. Army Research Laboratory cut ribbon on ARL Central

The University of Chicago and the United States Army Research Laboratory held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the recently announced partnership between the organizations, and to observe Veterans Day with distinguished guests and elected officials.

The ceremony on Nov. 10 followed the Army Research Lab’s announcement in October of ARL Central, a new regional headquarters for research and technology development, to be based at the University's Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Hyde Park. Friday’s event included Ryan McCarthy, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Army, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, and other leaders from the University of Chicago and ARL.

The rapidly expanding and robust innovation ecosystem on Chicago’s South Side helped attract the interest of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, which was looking to establish a new presence in the Midwest. ARL Central is designed to leverage expertise throughout the region by partnering with the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratories and several leading universities to accelerate discovery, innovation and the transition of science and technology.

“Our partnership with the Army Research Lab, and the establishment of ARL Central out of our campus, will bring the research and development capabilities of ARL to Chicago for the first time,” said Eric D. Isaacs, executive vice president for research, innovation and national laboratories at the University of Chicago. “It will allow ARL researchers to interact in new ways with leading scientists at the University of Chicago—as well as with faculty and researchers at our collaborating universities in the areas of materials and data sciences.”

ARL Central is part of the Army’s Open Campus program—an initiative building a science and technology ecosystem that will encourage groundbreaking advances in basic and applied research areas relevant to the Army. Like ARL West, which was established at the University of Southern California in April 2016 and ARL South, which was established with the University of Texas Systems earlier this year, ARL Central will allow faculty and researchers from UChicago to work alongside and in collaboration with ARL researchers on new discoveries that will help the Army solve current and future challenges.

“Today’s ribbon-cutting marks the day we linked the ARL research web with the research powerhouse which is the University of Chicago,” said McCarthy.

“The Polsky Center will surely provide the backdrop needed to enhance our collaborative endeavors as we continue to perform research needed to bring technology options for new capabilities,” said Dr. Philip Perconti, director of the Army Research Laboratory. “This ribbon cutting will signify our new partnerships so that we can quickly get to work on the next discovery for innovation that will be a game-changer for the U.S. Army and the United States.”

In addition to the relationship with University of Chicago, ARL Central will involve many of the region’s other universities, including Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin. Representatives from those institutions were present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the city of Chicago, a tremendous opportunity for the South Side of Chicago, and a tremendous opportunity to address some very serious challenges—and take those challenges and make them new businesses and new ventures,” said Emanuel at Friday’s event.

“I believe that we have some of the greatest universities in the world within easy reach of the city of Chicago,” said Durbin. “And working with the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense, their research is not only going to keep America safe, but it will keep our economy strong.”

Additional guests included veteran entrepreneurs who have worked closely with the Polsky Center. They spoke with McCarthy about both their military service and current startup experiences. Veterans included Phillip Lange (Marines), Chief Technology Officer of Conduit Labs, Kimberly Jung (Army) and Keith Alaniz, MBA’18, (Army) of Rumi Spice, Daniel Rogers, MBA’13, (Army), co-founder of A.M. Money, and Corey Ritter, current Chicago Booth student, Army Reservist and instructor in UChicago’s ROTC program.

ARL Central will be based at the new Polsky Center innovation complex in Hyde Park, which was announced in June as a new project in partnership with Wexford Science and Technology. The project, expected to begin next year, is the second phase of the Harper Court redevelopment and will be a 270,000 square foot facility featuring lab and office space for researchers, industry partners and entrepreneurs to collaborate in the areas of data analytics and advanced materials. For the time being, ARL Central will operate out of the Polsky Center’s existing Polsky Exchange South building on 53rd Street. 

“The Polsky Center is expanding its footprint on Chicago’s South Side to equip more innovators, community entrepreneurs and academic researchers with the resources they need to deliver high impact products, technologies and solutions,” said John Flavin, associate vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation and head of the Polsky Center. “We look forward to working closely with ARL and all the partner universities involved in ARL Central on joint projects and technologies that will bring the very best minds together in a collaborative way.”