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IIN grants fund research on municipal waste management, regional connectivity

Illinois Innovation Network grants

Professors Krishna Reddy and Sybil Derrible are part of a select four collaborative research teams that were awarded seed grants from the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), led by the University of Illinois System.

IIN is a system of university-community-industry hubs throughout the state. The hubs use a combination of research, public-private partnerships, entrepreneurship, and workforce training programs to spur economic development across Illinois. The four grants are part of the Sustaining Illinois program, which is focused on the economy, health, and social well-being.

Reddy is working with Mahdi Vaezi, an assistant professor of engineering technology at Northern Illinois University, on a project to improve municipal solid waste management. Their framework will lay out optimal locations for waste-management facilities and ways to use new technologies to convert waste into valuable products, while taking economic feasibility and social and environmental factors into account.

Reddy noted that Illinois generates nearly one ton of municipal solid waste per person each year — 19 percent more than the U.S. average, and only 35 percent of which is recycled. To reduce the amount headed for the landfill, “a new integrated framework is needed” that integrates all key decision-making factors and brings benefits across the board: to government, industries, investors and communities.

Derrible is collaborating with Moira Zellner, associate professor of urban planning and policy at UIC, and John Murphy, a research associate professor of anthropology at Northern Illinois University, on a project called Sustainable urban-regional modeling network (SURe Modeling).

The team is planning to establish a network of researchers to examine how large cities are connected to smaller urban areas in their regions. The research will include modeling of coupled social and ecological systems to explore sustainable pathways for the greater Chicago region.

Derrible explained the research team’s intent: “As the famous management consultant Peter Drucker said, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.’ Modeling how cities interact between themselves and with the environment is extremely challenging. Fortunately, we live in a region that is full of incredibly smart people. This grant will help us establish a network of researchers to work on this common goal.”

Learn more about Reddy’s research at and about Derrible’s research at