Harper College

Innovation Accelerator

Innovation Accelerator logo

In Fall 2022, Harper launched the Innovation Accelerator as a new collaborative College unit designed to focus on rapid development and delivery of emerging technology programming to meet regional employer demands for a skilled workforce. Innovation in this context signifies a paradigm shift, challenging traditional norms with disruptive ideas that pave the way for transformational learning experiences. It's about reimagining the educational landscape, where creative approaches and novel thinking foster a culture of continuous evolution and profound impact, particularly with how we engage employer partners and develop new industry-driven curricula and programs. New programs will ensure students are learning future technology skills and competencies, using industry-relevant equipment, and earning industry-recognized credentials that make them competitive in today’s rapidly changing job market. Innovation Award Badge

Vision Statement: Harper College's Innovation Accelerator envisions being a pioneering force in community college education, seamlessly integrating cutting-edge technologies and labor market trends to create transformative educational experiences. Our strategic focus is to lead with agility and foresight in developing comprehensive programs in emerging fields such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cloud computing, quantum computing, nanotechnology, and semiconductor technology. Utilizing the Business and Industry

 Leadership Team (BILT) model, we are committed to ensuring our curriculum remains industry-relevant and forward-thinking, preparing students for the dynamic challenges of tomorrow's workforce. We aspire to be a beacon of innovation and excellence that empowers students and faculty, enriches communities, and drives economic growth through educational leadership and collaborative partnerships. 

Innovation Accelerator in the News:

The Five Economies Positioned for Regional Future Growth

The Innovation Accelerator is focused on careers fields included in the five “economies” (or occupation clusters) positioned for future growth according to regional labor market data. We are currently focused on programs and occupations in the Readiness, Automated, and Remote Economies, specifically Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Infrastructure Semiconductors/Nanotechnology, and Quantum Computing. These are the hot jobs of today and tomorrow!

Readiness Economy
Biotechology, cybersecurity, infrastructure, and public health

Logistics Economy
Industrial big data, IoT technologies, and supply chain management

Green Economy
Renewable energy, sustainability, and green building construction

Remote Economy
Supporting e-commerce, cloud computing, and network systems

Automated Economy
AI, robotics, automation, software and application development, and

data science

Innovation Accelerator Initiatives

Innovation Infographic

Business & Industry Leadership Teams

We are looking for business and industry leaders, including technical executives, technicians, and other industry professionals, working in Cybersecurity, AI, and Cloud Infrastructure career fields to join our new Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) advisory councils. Check out our BILT webpage to learn more. 

From Community to Quantum Project

From Community to Quantum, co-led by Harper College and City Colleges of Chicago, will build a diverse quantum workforce through the single largest community college-focused QIST program in the nation. From Community to Quantum will leverage industry trends, labor market forecasts, and technical expertise to build access to quantum technologies and career pathways to well-paying jobs in the region.  

This component project, as part of the Quantum Bloch Tech Hub led by the research-focused Chicago Quantum Exchange, aims to prepare students and community members for careers in this rapidly evolving field by collaborating with industry, academia, and government partners. The Bloch is seeking $70 million EDA funding to support seven component projects, including the $20 million From Community to Quantum project. When funded, the project will:

  1. Establish four regional Quantum Workforce Education and Training Network (QuNetwork) Centers: CCC (Chicago), Harper College (Northwest suburbs of Chicago), Gateway Technical College (Wisconsin), and Ivy Tech (Indiana).
  2. Develop a Regional Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) advisory council composed of industry professionals to co-lead new quantum and quantum-adjacent curriculum development.
  3. Create a regional innovation ecosystem to enhance exposure to future Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST) learners, inclduing development of academic programs and expanding dual credit and university transfer pathways to create a skilled and more diverse talent pipeline.

From Community to Quantum positions community colleges as the cornerstone in building a skilled, diverse, and inclusive QIST talent pipeline. As QIST employers expand their hiring needs, there is increasing opportunity for associate degree and certificate-level programs that train technicians adept in QIST-related technical skills. To move individuals “from community to quantum,” this project will establish QuNetwork Centers at the four partnering community colleges, leveraging existing infrastructure and each college’s areas of strength. These centers will provide nimble resources to build and develop employer-led curricula and alternative pathways to make QIST more accessible.

This project will deeply engage regional employers through a Regional Quantum BILT that will co-lead the development of curricula to be implemented at the Centers. The BILT will also provide opportunities for internships, apprenticeships, and other on-the-job training opportunities, which will ensure graduates have current and relevant skills and pathways to jobs. This project will expand pathways from high school to postsecondary and into the workforce, aligning across The Bloch’s other component projects, to cultivate a workforce well-versed in QIST and equipped with transferable skills applicable across industries to build quantum capacity for finance, energy, biotech, manufacturing, and other sectors.

 With deep roots in their communities, From Community to Quantum will convene and serve an interconnected ecosystem of K-12, community college, university, industry, government, and community-based organization (CBO) partners to increase early exposure, expanded access, enhanced dual credit and university transfer, and wraparound services for future QIST workers. Through the From Community to Quantum project, Harper and City Colleges are dedicated to fostering innovation, driving economic growth, and preparing our communities for the future of quantum technology.

Prioritizing Equity in Emerging Technologies Pathways at Harper Grant Project

The Innovation Accelerator has been tasked with operationalizing the $1.6 million Prioritizing Equity in Emerging Technologies Pathways at Harper (EmergingTech@Harper) project that is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration's Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant (SCC3) program. Over the next four years, Harper will develop new accelerated career pathways in Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, and Cloud Infrastructure. These pathways will offer multiple entry and exit points, including technical bridge programs for students needing basic skills support, short-term certificates, industry-recognized credentials, credit certificates, and associate degrees. We want to meet individuals where they are and support their academic journey. This project also seeks to increase the number of women and people of color in IT-related career fields. Click the program links at the top of the page to learn more about new and planned programs that equip students with cutting-edge skills.

Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC)

The Innovation Accelerator is leading a $400,000 three-year National Science Foundation grant project entitled Generating Regional Innovative Partnerships. Harper is serving as the lead institution for a five-institution consortium comprised of Ivy Tech Community College (IN), Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MS), Washburn University Institute of Technology (KS), and WSU Tech (KS). The primary goal of this three-year grant is to build institutional capacity to grow external partnerships for workforce programs to make them more responsive to regional workforce needs supported by the development of a scalable, replicable framework for community and technical colleges transitioning from traditional advisory committees to the nationally recognized Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) advisory council model. Dr. Susanne Brock serves as the Principal Investigator, and Dr. Maria Coons is the co-Principal Investigator. 


Last Updated: 6/5/24