As a first step, you have to determine what those strengths are. The Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC), a not-for-profit organization with the mission of driving growth in the state’s innovation economy, set out to identify Illinois’ high-potential technology areas—that is, those primed to drive new discoveries, product development, and business growth in the coming years.[pullquote]It is the first attempt by any organization in Illinois to report on innovation performance by focusing on technology clusters that cut across industries.[/pullquote]Once you’ve figured out where our strengths lie—what’s already robust, what’s growing, and how it all fits together—the second challenge is to create a report that distills this tremendous amount of data and analysis, with the goal of informing policy and program recommendations of how Illinois can more effectively harness its research and shepherd innovation through the commercialization pipeline. The result is The Illinois science and technology roadmap, released yesterday by ISTC. It is the first attempt by any organization in Illinois to report on innovation performance by focusing not on industry clusters but on technology clusters that cut across industries.
Leff Communications was proud to serve as the editorial team for the roadmap. We drew on our experience with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Illinois economic development plan, released earlier this year and a precursor to ISTC’s roadmap, to help ISTC tell the story of Illinois innovation and the untapped potential that could drive our economy in the years to come. [pullquote]We immediately sensed the opportunity to help create a unique narrative of Illinois’ innovation story, to build a compelling snapshot that makes a case for increased collaboration between researchers and industry.[/pullquote]Our firm assisted ISTC throughout the multi-month editorial process, synthesizing data from leading researchers, analysis from ISTC, and input from subject matter experts in fields such as nanotechnology, energy storage, and biofuels.
With longer reports such as this, visuals play a huge part in making the content engaging. In an early meeting with ISTC, Jeff Margolis and Lyu Uzunov—the project’s masterminds—showed us a pilot rendering of a cluster map (Exhibit A). It was visually arresting: technicolor lines crisscrossed one another in what appeared to be deep space, culminating in bonds suggesting relationships of various kinds. One color indicated a connection between cluster participants (industry, research institutions), while another indicated just the potential of a connection.
We immediately sensed the opportunity to help create a unique narrative of Illinois’ innovation story, to build a compelling snapshot that makes a case for increased collaboration between researchers and industry. After much discussion, our designer, Delilah Zak, developed an approach that accommodated all of the data but structured it in a way that was more accessible and intuitive. Goodbye visual chaos; hello compelling exhibit (exhibit B).
The final product is what we set out for it to be: an illustrative snapshot of the Illinois technology cluster network—the result of a model developed by Dr. C. Scott Dempwolf of the University of Maryland—bolstered by unmatched research into academic and industry patenting, citations, and collaboration.
We look forward to continuing to work with the ISTC and other organizations to strengthen Illinois’ economy and promote innovation.