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A Publication of WTVP

Peoria NEXT has noticed a trend. Its technical term is the “I had no idea” effect. It’s more than just a look, an exclamation, or a virtual light bulb appearing in your mind. The “I had no idea” effect is the phenomenon that occurs when someone’s eyes have been opened to the tremendous resources that are right here in central Illinois. 

It’s all part of the NEXT plan. The “I had no idea” effect is why Peoria NEXT was created. NEXT has been waving the flag, shouting from the rooftops, and whispering in the ears of everyone who will listen. You don’t have to look far to find hot biotech right now. You don’t have to head to the coasts to find ground-breaking innovation. You don’t even need to search great distances to find capital resources and commercialization assistance. Peoria NEXT is bringing together all of these things—and more—right here in central Illinois.

The NEXT emphasis on collaboration is what makes the organization work. Fostering networking and connecting resources with the people who need them is a key function of Peoria NEXT. One way NEXT does this is through the Discovery Forums.

Discovery Forums are central Illinois’ key to collaborative discovery and innovation. By bringing together individuals and institutions from throughout central Illinois and beyond, the Discovery Forums are a catalyst to dynamic discovery in the life sciences, material sciences, and engineering sciences.

The essence of the Discovery Forum is illustrated perfectly through a story of two groups of researchers from separate local institutions. Last year, two groups of scientists discovered they had been working on virtually the exact same technology simultaneously. Through networking at the Discovery Forum, these researchers and others like them are able to learn from one another and build on one another’s ideas and discoveries.

“Discovery Forum II: A Celebration of Innovation” will feature a national perspective on the future of technology and its application. The forum, held at the Peoria Civic Center May 1, will also provide an overview of Peoria NEXT, its recent accomplishments, and its challenges for the future. In addition, the forum will review the activities and opportunities of the research/education/innovation team of Peoria NEXT.

Discovery Forum II will be like last year’s event, only bigger and better. More than 400 researchers and scientists attended the first Discovery Forum one year ago, and the estimated attendance for this year’s event is even greater. An added feature at this year’s program will be the first Peoria NEXT Scientific Colloquium, featuring local scientists and their research efforts.

The capstone event of the Discovery Forum will be a special evening performance of the play Picasso at the Lapin Agile, written by Steve Martin and performed by the Bradley University Department of Theatre Arts. This drama is a perfect artistic symbol of the Peoria NEXT initiative. Through its portrayal of the convergence of the philosophies of art and science, embodied by three individuals who shaped and gave direction to the 20th century, the drama gives life, wit, and entertainment to the imagination and creativity our community seeks to embrace.

Great discovery and innovation are the results of successful collaboration in an environment that fosters imagination and creativity. The seeds of collaboration are born in the “I had no idea” moment, and the prospect of great discovery and innovation is what makes them grow into something great. That something great—successful growth and prosperity through discovery, innovation, and commercialization—is what Peoria NEXT and the Discovery Forum II are all about. IBI

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