Tech momentum recharged in new year
January 10, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Chicago tech is on
the move, thanks to MotoMountain, RIA and Boeing's Phantom Works.
I was feeling
the post holiday blues. Things seemed slow and low energy. Then
Motorola CEO Ed Zander erected a 60-foot-high "MotoMountain"
with real snow and snowboarders at the Consumer Electronics Show
in Las Vegas.
promoting Motorola's new products made just for hip snowboarders.
This guy Zander's a showman. He's got energy and pizzazz. He's
officially from Chicago. He's turning Motorola around. Maybe we
should put the "MotoMountain" in Millennium Park.
I felt a surge
Then I thought
about RIA. No, she's not my girlfriend. Even better. RIA is the
federally funded rare isotope accelerator project. It's worth
a cool $1 billion in funding and 16,000 construction jobs.
out there, former Gov. Jim Thompson and former U.S. Commerce Secretary
Bill Daley are twisting arms to land this project at Argonne National
Labs. It could happen.
My pulse rate
Then I got
a call from David Daniel, dean of the college of engineering at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Daniel says Boeing's
Phantom Works unit just made one of "the largest corporate
commitments to research ever" at his college of engineering.
The dean and
Boeing won't disclose amounts, but it's probably in the millions
and it holds enormous significance for our state.
is the research arm of the $50 billion Boeing Corp., a company
that spends roughly $1.6 billion annually on R&D. Phantom
Works could go anywhere in the world to invest its dollars. Phantom
just hugged the University of Illinois. It's a huge win.
Boeing vice president of engineering and information technology,
will lead the Boeing side of the collaboration, and credits retired
Boeing CTO David Swain with opening the dialogue at U. of I.
savvy. He recognized the importance of research in information
security and trustworthy computer systems.
you think of airplanes, you think of jet engines," Daniel
says. "A very substantial amount of what goes into an airplane
is computers and information systems."
a new Information Trust Institute, consolidating resources across
the university. He named a rising faculty star, William Sanders,
43, to direct the institute. Daniel describes Sanders as the "driving
force behind the deal, and a real dynamo."
research projects are being defined, the institute's efforts might
include new approaches to airport security, efforts to reduce
mechanical delays and projects exploring the impact of airborne
Internet and cell-phone use.
that is electronic and involves information falls within the purview"
How do we
create more partnerships? Old-fashioned salesmanship, Daniel says.
their research needs, and push the capabilities we have,"
he says. The formula works great for Daniel's world- class engineering
to Fitzmire, preliminary partnership talks are also under way
outside might be icy, but it's beginning to feel like California
were a hallmark of Chicago's dot-com era. Initially founded in
London to bring together entrepreneurs, service providers and
venture capitalists, First Tuesday's networking events were imported
to Chicago by David Jacobson, a partner at Sonnenschein, Nath
If he had
it to do over again, Jacobson says, "I would try to figure
out more ways to stratify the group."
He'd aim to
get the right people into smaller groups where they could participate,
Now a new
generation of networkers is improving on Jacobson's model. Brad
Spirrison, Adam Fendelman and Josh Metnick, the triad behind ePrairie,
Chicago's online technology newsletter, have launched eXtreme
to do several dozen events in 2005," says Spirrison, who's
built a software platform that matches up high potential individuals
who can help each other grow their businesses.
think tech events ever went away. People now have the option to
network in a more systematic format," he says. "People
want to get a return for their time invested in a networking session.
That's what we're trying to accommodate."
Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.