Asumag 5970 Uofibioprocessing 0

Budget impasse could again halt construction of lab at University of Illinois

June 23, 2017
Construction of the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory, which was stopped for a year because of the budget stalemate, may have to shut down again at the end of the month.

Because of the state of Illinois budget impasse, construction of the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will grind to a halt for the second time on July 1.

A news release from the university's College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences says that contractors have received written notifications from the Capital Development Board to prepare the site for demobilization.

Officials at the university report that the previous work stoppage, which lasted a year, caused the budget for the lab building to climb by nearly 30 percent. They are concerned that another extended delay will result in much more extensive rework increase the costs of the $32 million project even more.

Lab Director Vijay Singh says the building had been scheduled to open for business in spring 2018.

“We’ve made great progress after recovering from the first shutdown.," says Singh. "That momentum will be lost as attention shifts to protecting the building rather than foundational project scoping. Relationships that we’ve built with industrial partners will undoubtedly suffer major setbacks, and exciting prospects for economic development related to bioprocessing and bio-products in Illinois and along the I-72 biocorridor will be delayed.”

In addition, federal and industrial research projects that were expected to begin in 2018 will be postponed or cancelled. Companies, which had set aside monies for projects, will likely look elsewhere for scale-up work.

With a shutdown imminent, the work on the project the rest of the month will focus on securing the facility against weather and vandalism. The delays could be compounded if contractors move on to other projects and aren't available when the project restarts.

The lab is a part of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Kim Kidwell, dean of the college, says the second halt of construction could have serious long-term consequences.

“It’s not just about a building,” Kidwell says. “Obviously, we’ll need to postpone hiring staff to operate the facility, but there is also the potential for the loss of very talented faculty and scientists as they consider other opportunities. Illinois will be challenged to retain and recruit talent working in the industrial biotech space. Enrollment in the Professional Science Masters (PSM) program in bioprocessing and other related majors may suffer from the lack of available facilities and faculty.”

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