The University of Notre Dame announced Friday (April 26) a $42.4 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to form the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Network, which will enhance and link cutting-edge expertise, technologies, workforce development programs and innovation-based facilities throughout the broader South Bend-Elkhart region.
The five-year grant will bring together the University and the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership (SBERP) along with other key regional stakeholders in a collaboration to further advance the region as an economic leader in next-generation manufacturing, entrepreneurship, applied analytics and technology.
The LIFT Network will accelerate the region’s shared vision, described in SBERP’s Ensuring Prosperity Plan, to create an environment that attracts, trains and retains top talent for tomorrow’s jobs. The LIFT Network also builds on the momentum created by an Indiana Regional Cities Initiative grant awarded to the region in 2015.
The Lilly Endowment grant will help leverage additional investments in the LIFT Network. Regional leaders envision a total combined investment reaching nearly $170 million. To help Notre Dame raise additional resources and sustain the program’s future, the Lilly Endowment grant contains a $4 million matching condition.
“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 I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “All of us share a common, hopeful vision for our region’s future. We who live and work in the region know that a quiet transformation is underway, and that the Lilly Endowment grant is a powerful catalyst for a brighter, resilient future.”
The LIFT Network is the sixth Indiana regional community and economic development initiative Lilly Endowment has supported since 2007. Each initiative seeks to build on a region’s unique strengths by fostering collaboration among community foundations, educational institutions and other local and regional community organizations to generate enhanced regional prosperity.
“The South Bend-Elkhart region has important core strengths, including Notre Dame’s extraordinary educational and research capabilities; a strong industrial base, especially the companies and talented employees in the area’s exceptional mobility cluster; and compelling opportunities in diversified sectors such as IT and data analytics,” said Rob Smith, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for community development. “The LIFT Network will connect and strengthen these assets in ways that will help enhance the quality of life for the people in the region.”
The LIFT Network will also play a key role in helping make the regional economy more resilient. According to a 2019 Brookings report, digital automation and artificial intelligence will be most disruptive to jobs in the Midwest, with the South Bend-Elkhart region being identified as the third most vulnerable workforce in the nation. A critical component of LIFT will be focused on mitigating this risk through forward-looking workforce development and training programs designed to develop existing and future talent with advanced industry skills and knowledge while fostering a culture for lifelong learning in the region.
The long-term vision of the LIFT Network is fourfold:
The vision for the LIFT Network emerged in 2018 from a series of community conversations and planning meetings convened by SBERP and resulted in the “Ensuring Prosperity Regional Economic Development Strategy” and publication of the “Tides of Change: Critical Investments Needed to Stimulate Long-term Economic Prosperity in the South Bend-Elkhart Region,” which was prepared by TEConomy Partners LLC. These efforts and the report, which detailed the region’s critical economic drivers — smart mobility manufacturing, IT/data analytics and Notre Dame — were funded by a planning grant from Lilly Endowment to the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership Foundation.
Titled “Driving Economic Prosperity in South Bend-Elkhart through Applied Learning and Research,” LIFT’s plan, which arises from the TEConomy report, outlines how it will coordinate education, workforce training and research initiatives in support of the region’s advanced manufacturing, IT and data analytics clusters.
“Our economic vitality, community leadership, culture of collaboration and optimism for the future are stronger than ever,” said Regina Emberton, president and chief executive officer of SBERP. “The LIFT Network will link the region’s industrial, academic and technology assets, presenting a transformational opportunity for the ongoing development of the regional economy.”
The Lilly Endowment grant will enable the LIFT Network to:
“We believe that the LIFT Network will be a catalyst for workforce and economic development in the region, enabling local employers to be more competitive, adaptive and resilient in an increasingly fast-paced global economy,” said Gary Neidig, president of Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies. “As a LIFT Network member, we welcome iNDustry Labs professionals working with our team to identify areas for innovation and to increase investments in research and development so that new technologies become future opportunities for growth.”
LIFT Network and iNDustry Labs will host a kickoff event this summer so interested parties from the South Bend-Elkhart region can learn more about how the funding will be used, what various partners’ roles will be and the potential economic benefits.
For more information about the LIFT Network, visit www.LIFTgrant.com or contact Regina Emberton at 574-344-4686 or Scott Ford, Notre Dame associate vice president for economic development, at 574-631-3108.