iFAB Awarded $51 Million Grant to Propel Biomanufacturing

The funding aims to position central Illinois as a global leader in biomanufacturing and precision fermentation.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
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URBANA, Ill. — The Illinois Fermentation and Agriculture Biomanufacturing (iFAB) Tech Hub has been awarded approximately $51 million from the Tech Hubs Program through the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. The iFAB consortium, led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will receive a Phase 2 Implementation grant to position Central Illinois as a global leader in biomanufacturing and precision fermentation, supporting national security, economic growth, and job generation.

Authorized by the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the EDA designated 31 Regional Innovation and Technology Hubs that qualified for a Phase 2 Implementation grant last October. Today the EDA unveiled that iFAB is one of 12 Tech Hub Designees selected for implementation funding.

The EDA Phase 2 grant will fill gaps to support the wide spectrum of biomanufacturing businesses that are developing precision fermentation innovations to create zero-emission, high-value products from agricultural commodities. By harnessing microbes to transform local feedstocks — mainly corn and soybeans — into a variety of goods such as textiles, biofuels, food ingredients, and more, these efforts could revolutionize domestic manufacturing. The precision fermentation industry is projected to reach $200 billion by 2040, with the potential to generate one million jobs by 2030.

This funding announcement follows strategic discussions in Washington, D.C., where the importance of biomanufacturing for national security was emphasized, as well as Central Illinois' unique capabilities to position itself as the epicenter for biomanufacturing in the U.S.

Ultimately, the Phase II Implementation grant will strengthen iFAB’s ability to attract and support companies that join the growing biomanufacturing ecosystem in Champaign, Piatt, and Macon counties.

Bioprocessing expansion: The EDA grant will help realize a $40 million expansion of IBRL, which will include a 1500-liter fermenter capacity upgrade.

Production line expansion: Primient and Synonym will receive funding to achieve a fermentation capacity of 13,000 liters; ADM will use Phase 2 funding to upgrade their precision fermentation facility to 80,000 liters. This significant investment solidifies Decatur’s role as a key player in Central Illinois’ expanding biomanufacturing corridor.

iFAB Tech Hub Management: The EDA grant will support the iFAB Tech Hub’s management, formalizing leadership roles for Conerty, McCrory-McKay, and Bateman as well as Laura Appenzeller, U. of I. assistant vice chancellor for innovation and Research Park executive director, and Kim Kidwell, U. of I. associate chancellor for strategic partnerships and initiatives. Brian Jacobson, IBRL’s associate director of strategic operations, will serve as the program manager for infrastructure development. iFAB will hire additional staff to support these efforts.

iFAB is supported by the coalition Innovate Illinois, a strategic initiative led by Governor J.B. Pritzker and co-chaired by U. of I. Chancellor Robert J. Jones.

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