Universities were not always the engines of research and discovery," says Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president of communications at the University of Chicago.

"World War II changed all that."

Rosenberg says there was an exodus of scientists out of Germany and other countries and in the 1930s they came to the U.S. Teams came and did the first controlled nuclear project (Manhattan Project), which led to the production of plutonium and nuclear power and nuclear energy and the birth of Argonne National Laboratory.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized science had a major impact on our winning the war and asked Vannevar Bush, director of the office of scientific research and development, to research what the federal government's role should be.

Bush wrote "Science – The Endless Frontier" establishing universities as bastions of science and discovery. More than 80 percent of funding for research at universities comes from the federal government, Rosenberg says. From new computer technology and the creation of the high tech boom in the 1980s to the creation of biotech it was all done at the university level.

Rosenberg says the federal government investment has been a model in other countries such as China and England.

In 1980 the Bayh-Dole Act further changed the landscape granting ownership rights to universities and the transfer from public to private sectors.

"Northwestern, the University of Chicago, University of Illinois are like the coal miners of the 21st century creating new knowledge," Rosenberg says.

The overall idea is to use and disseminate the discoveries and information to create a value in society.

"Universities are engines of discovery and advancement in economic impact," Rosenberg says. "The success of a world class city like Chicago increasingly depends on intellectual property resources."

Resources such as the universities, museums and laboratories are the kind of resources that allow Chicago to recruit and retain people.