What We Do

This NSF Regional Innovation Engines Development Award is focused on transforming the transportation logistics system through five core strengths:

  • Interdisciplinary applied research
  • Business incubation and entrepreneurship
  • Adaptive lifelong and P-20 Learning
  • Cross-sectoral inclusive economic development
  • Deep community engagement

Advancing Smart Logistics (ASL) will focus on three core activities:

  • Automation of logistics for truck middle-mile and last-mile freight systems
  • Autonomous drones and electric vehicle deployment
  • Inland waterway freight delivery systems
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Our Goals

ASL will center its planning around translatable research that demonstrates automation as a systemic enhancement and research that incorporates drone and electric vehicle technologies across industry clusters.

It will use smart logistics and design thinking to engage port managers, community leaders, and private sector partners to develop a regional, urban-to-rural waterborne commerce system and inclusive labor market.

It will also identify equitable strategies through our Workforce Education Exchange for reskilling and upskilling individuals whose career paths are disrupted by automation, while also ensuring that new and incumbent workers in local and sub-regional economies can attain long-term participation in new and existing industry clusters.

It will serve as a convener to braid together all modes of transportation into one comprehensive application for funding of a new Regional Innovation Engine serving the nation from its Illinois hub base and through its diverse and well-positioned spokes.


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The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted many of the chronic failure points in logistics systems that have been stressed by multi-scalar economic, social, and natural crises. Solving these challenges at all scales and across the urban to rural spectrum is crucial to the future economic prosperity and resilience of the U.S. 

The Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin-Missouri region is poised to lead in this sector because of its unique setting as a hub for all transportation modalities. In Illinois alone, more than 75% of the nation’s barge traffic flows past the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in southern Illinois; O’Hare International Airport processes two trillion metric tons of freight each year; and the state is traversed by 12 interstate highways and six Class I freight railroads. 

Advancing Smart Logistics is coordinated by the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), with Governors State University as the lead academic institution. Key partners across the state include Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Eastern Illinois University, community and city colleges, private corporations and non-profit organizations.

The Case for Advancing Smart Logistics

About the National Science Foundation (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines Program 

The NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program is a bold new initiative administered by the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP), the agency’s first new directorate in more than 30 years. It is committed to creating an inclusive and equitable regional-scale, technology-driven innovation ecosystem throughout every region of the United States, accelerating emerging technologies, driving inclusive economic growth, addressing key societal challenges, and maintaining national competitiveness. 

The NSF Engines program aims to fund regional coalitions of partnering organizations to establish NSF Engines that will catalyze technology and science-based regional innovation ecosystems. NSF will fund Engines to carry out an integrated and comprehensive set of activities spanning use-inspired research, translation-to-practice, entrepreneurship, and workforce development to nurture and accelerate regional industries.

The Type-1 awards are Development Awards intended to enable awardees to lay the groundwork for submitting a successful Type-2 proposal to launch a full-scale NSF Engine. The award period is 24 months.


Learn how you, your community, or your organization can help ASL transform logistics.

For more information, contact smartlogistics@govst.edu.


led by

  • Ahern Investment & Development

  • Corn Belt Ports, LLC.

  • ConGlobal Industries, LLC.

  • Hanson Professional Services, Inc.

  • Ingalls Development Foundation

  • Lanco International, Inc.
  • Mobility Illinois

  • mHub

  • OAI, Inc.

  • Olive-Harvey College

  • PepsiCo, Inc.

  • Southern Company Gas (Nicor Inc.)
  • Tandem Development Group, LLC

  • Riverside Global

  • Valqari LLC

  • Wintrust Commercial FInance

  • World Business Chicago
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Broader Impacts

  • Economic development: ASL will increase regional economic activity with the creation of companies and jobs in a variety of fields, including warehousing, transportation, and information technology.

  • Environmental sustainability: By using more efficient approaches and technologies, such as middle-mile automation and electric vehicles, ASL will help to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

  • Social equity: By working with local communities and organizations, ASL will generate jobs and provide training opportunities to people from underserved communities.

  • Access to goods and services: By creating a smart and resilient supply chain, ASL will help ensure consumers have and maintain access to goods and services, particularly in undeserved and rural communities.

Key Personnel

Mr. Reggie Greenwood, Director, Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator

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