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Jan 26, 2021 2021-01 Accountancy Alumni Business Administration Faculty Finance Student

Gies College of Business launches Disruption Lab to drive innovation for students, corporate partners

In an effort to prepare students and corporate partners to succeed in a business world being rapidly reshaped by unprecedented technological innovation and social pressures, the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business is launching a new initiative called the Disruption Lab. Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) has agreed to support the lab as a founding corporate member. EY has been a longtime collaborator for the college and has successfully hired many Gies students into fulfilling careers.

“Both Gies Business and EY are purpose-driven organizations that are committed to student success and developing agile business leaders,” said Jeffrey R. Brown, the Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor of Business and Dean. “EY’s purpose – to build a better working world – is evident in the importance they place on both recognizing and succeeding through disruption. They are natural collaborators for us in this endeavor, and we look forward to preparing business leaders for success together.”

The Disruption Lab is a collaborative, cross-campus project aimed at providing extracurricular learning opportunities for students, creating new entrepreneurial opportunities that connect existing campus resources in new ways, and building and strengthening relationships between the Gies College of Business and its corporate partners.

“Our goal at EY is to build a better working world, but in order to step onto the pathway of progress, we must think outside the box,” said Kevin Brower, the Illinois Audit Network Leader at EY. “The Disruption Lab at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business is uniquely designed to incubate innovate ways of thinking and operating that are inclusive, strategic, resilient and effective.”

“In today’s world, you’re either part of the disruption or you risk being disrupted,” said Robert Brunner, Associate Dean for Innovation and Chief Disruption Officer at Gies College of Business. “Emerging technology, social activism, political instability and health outbreaks are all changing the way business is being done. The Disruption Lab will allow us to expose our students and corporate partners to these disruptions and teach them how to leverage these factors for future success.”

Though not currently a physical space, the Disruption Lab will make a significant impact inside and outside the classroom. At its core, the lab will be built around student projects, where interdisciplinary teams of students collaborate on a project focused on an emerging technology, such as virtual reality, augmented reality or blockchain. The students will be able to deeply explore technology innovations of interest to them, while also delivering a viable product or solution that could help businesses successfully navigate disruption.

The lab will also provide education and training for both students and interested companies. Through Disruption Lab events, students and corporate partners can participate in technology training sessions on topics such as blockchain, automated machine learning (AutoML), robotic process automation (RPA) and more.

“We believe the Disruption Lab can be an extremely valuable resource for our students and our business partners,” said Brunner, who will lead the lab. “This will allow us to drive innovation by giving students hands-on experience with the technologies of tomorrow. At the same time, we can partner with companies as they strive for future success in this increasingly volatile and complex world.”

The Disruption Lab will publicize calls for student participants in the coming months. If corporations would like to learn how they can get involved, they can email

About Gies College of Business
For more than 100 years, Gies College of Business has intentionally designed its innovative programs, leading-edge curriculum, and experiential learning opportunities to empower and prepare students to turn big ideas into meaningful actions. Today, Gies faculty prepare more than 7,000 future business leaders, including 3,100 undergraduates, from around the world to put their purpose into practice and provide transformative leadership in a global economy.

About EY
EY exists to build a better working world, helping create long-term value for clients, people and society and build trust in the capital markets.

Enabled by data and technology, diverse EY teams in over 150 countries provide trust through assurance and help clients grow, transform and operate.

Working across assurance, consulting, law, strategy, tax and transactions, EY teams ask better questions to find new answers for the complex issues facing our world today.

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