The Rock Island Arsenal, Deere & Co. and Black Hawk College are part of a new $320 million project to turn academic research into high-tech jobs.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, announced Sunday that the Department of Defense had awarded a $70 million federal grant to the University of Illinois-affiliated UI Labs in Chicago.

A consortium of business, academic and government interests added another $250 million to the $70 million to help win the grant against competition from groups in other states.

The initiative organized by the Department of Defense could "create thousands of jobs in advanced manufacturing fields, improve military readiness and make our economy more competitive," Rep. Bustos said in a news release. 

Deere joined Boeing and Caterpillar to contribute funding to the project. Exelon also is a supporter, and McLaughlin Body Company is a small industry partner.

The Quad City Chamber of Commerce and Quad City Manufacturing Laboratory at the Arsenal also are involved. Black Hawk College and Western Illinois University are academic partners in the project.

The money will be used to establish a Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago that will be managed by UI Labs. The institute will be used as a place for manufacturers to learn new digital technologies.

Black Hawk College will work with the institute to tailor courses it offers so students are equipped with cutting-edge skills, said Vicky Miller, director of the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center at Black Hawk.

She said it's too early to know whether Black Hawk will get any money from the project. 

The state of Illinois is contributing $16 million to the project, and the White House officially will announce the grant today.

"This new Digital Lab has the potential to revolutionize the way the United States approaches manufacturing and a major effort will be centered in Illinois," Sen. Durbin said in a release. 

Rep. Bustos urged President Barack Obama to bring the Digital Lab to Illinois when she talked to him on Air Force One when he flew to an event in Galesburg last year, her spokesman said.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden declined to reveal how much Deere contributed financially. 

"We believe our involvement and engagement with a broad regional team will lead to increasing utilization of digital manufacturing and help ensure that Deere and its suppliers continue to provide a competitive advantage through our manufacturing processes," Mr. Golden said.