As part of its ongoing effort to help member institutions magnify their economic impact, APLU recently announced finalists for its 2015 Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards. In this second installment in a three-part series, APLU spotlights the University of Illinois System and the University of Minnesota, finalists in the “Innovation” IEP Awards category, for their outstanding work in technology transfer, entrepreneurship, and business development.
The University of Illinois System has spurred innovation on several of its campuses. The system’s two proof-of-concept programs, the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund and the Illinois Proof-of Concept, help translate promising discoveries made in the laboratory into the marketplace. Bridging the chasm between basic and applied research grants, the POC programs foster commercialization by providing initial capital investment and other resources for budding entrepreneurs.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Research Park has yielded similar gains in commercialization. With the help of National Science Foundation funding, the Research Park hosts over 90 companies, including industry leaders like Abbott Pharmaceuticals, Dow Chemical, and John Deere.
The University of Illinois at Chicago has built on the work of its system counterparts to help turn university research into innovative technologies. Through EnterpriseWorks Chicago, a technology startup incubator, the University of Illinois Chicago provides lab space, enterprise guidance, and a network of investment professionals to facilitate commercialization.
The University of Minnesota System has partnered with the state and industry to create Minnesota’s Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE)— an $18 million annual investment from the state to advance emerging industries. The system has helped catalyze the launch of a record 16 startups in 2015, bringing its total to 86 since 2006. Eighty percent of those startups remain active today and have collectively attracted more than $200 million in capital investment. The university has achieved its results through a robust approach to driving innovation that includes helping transform discoveries into innovative solutions, streamlining the process of commercial licensing technology, and attracting state and industry-backed capital investment.