Revving the Economic Engines

Author: Erin Blasko

Turbomachinery, Ignition Park
Investigators at Notre Dame’s Turbomachinery Laboratory at South Bend’s Ignition Park. Photo by Matt Cashore ’94

When South Bend area health care providers needed face shields for use in the treatment of coronavirus patients, Matt Leevy, director of the Innovation Lab at Notre Dame’s Idea Center, took action. An associate research professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Leevy researched face shields and consulted with doctors to produce several prototypes using advanced 3D printers in his lab. He then enlisted the help of campus and community partners such as Purdue University Polytechnic Institute South Bend and 3D printers from the MakerHive in Elkhart, Indiana, to print more than 5,000 shields within weeks.

He could have fabricated the shields alone. But the collaboration enabled him to deliver a better product in a shorter period of time — and build valuable relationships in the process.

“This is a sneak peek into the future,” Leevy says. “We’re working with the community, trying to prototype things very quickly and then hand those off to other advanced shops on campus for manufacturing. And as we level up our manufacturing capabilities on campus, you can imagine these types of interactions leveling up as well.”

That’s the idea behind the LIFT Network, a collaboration between business, academia and community stakeholders to accelerate industrial innovation and spur economic and workforce development in the South Bend-Elkhart region. Leading partners include Notre Dame and other colleges and universities, the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership and the Community Foundations of Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph counties, working together with the help of a $42.4 million Lilly Endowment Grant.

Read the full story in Notre Dame Magazine's Summer 2020 issue.