The state is launching a $500,000 seed fund to encourage tech spinoffs from Illinois universities.
Many of the universities, such as University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Chicago, already have their own larger funds aimed at moving ideas from the lab to the commercial market.
It’s designed to pluck the best prospects from all the schools and showcase them for venture firms, says Nancy Sullivan, CEO of Illinois Ventures.
The Regional Proof of Concept fund isn’t meant to bankroll a startup. It’s designed as a catalyst, providing up to $25,000 per venture. For every dollar the state fund puts in, the startup’s university parent must match with $2.
“It’s not just money,” said Ms. Sullivan, who oversees the $10 million Chancellor’s Fund at UIC and brought the idea of a multischool fund to the state. “The money is a small carrot. The institutions have to commit to funding them first.
“What’s valuable is we get to show at a national level what we’re doing. We needed a platform for the best discoveries coming out of Illinois so we can bring in the coastal (venture capitalists).”
The fund, which will begin accepting applications for funding soon, hired Jeremy Hollis as director. He previous worked in UIC’s office of technology management.
Participants include the University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University and Argonne National Laboratory.
“This is about how do we utilize our academic institutions for economic growth?” said Adam Pollet, director of the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which provided the financial backing for the fund.