Greetings from ISTC Leadership

At the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition and Institute, our mission is to measure, connect, and enrich the state’s innovation community. Throughout 2017, we achieved a number of organizational and statewide milestones that propelled us forward and highlight the central role research, technology, and innovation play in growing the state’s economy.

Our work is reliant upon partnerships – with the state’s universities, federal labs, leading companies, high schools, emerging startups, and a network of civic/non-profit organizations.

We’d like to recognize and thank our dynamic group of members, who represent the pulse of the state’s innovation community, and our partners, who share in our mission to advance the state’s research and tech economy.

Through the work of the Illinois Science & Technology Institute, we continue to make impactful connections between companies with classrooms to build Illinois’ STEM talent pipeline.  In 2017, we reached a record number of students across 40+ Illinois high schools, engaged 550+ mentors, and created new lines of sight to careers in STEM fields.  View our full list of partners.

Finally, we thank our tremendous board of directors for their leadership and ongoing guidance.

Please take a moment to learn more about our accomplishments throughout 2017 in our pillars of data, advocacy, education, and innovation programs. We look forward to building on these efforts in 2018!


Mark Harris
President & CEO

Shelley Stern Grach
Board Chair
Director of Civic Engagement, Microsoft



Illinois Innovation Index

2017 was a record-breaking year for ISTC’s data collection and analysis efforts.  In March, ISTC released the University Entrepreneurship issue of the Illinois Innovation Index, highlighting the tremendous growth of university-supported startups in the state.  Overall, more than 800 university-supported startups spun out of Illinois’ universities from 2012-2016 — more than double the amount of the previous five-year period. 

In July, we released the R&D issue dedicated to measuring and benchmarking Illinois research and development efforts within the state’s universities, national laboratories, and business community.  Illinois ranks eighth nationally in R&D activity, with strengths in agriculture, medical science, and chemistry. 

Finally, our STEM Talent issue of the Index, released in early November, shed light on record-breaking STEM talent growth in Illinois.  In 2016, Illinois produced more than 40,000 STEM graduates, more than ever before.  Illinois also continues to be a powerhouse for computer science talent, producing the second most CS graduates in the nation.

Looking Forward

The Illinois Innovation Index will continue in its role as the state’s flagship publication on innovation performance. In 2018, we will also be expanding our Index events, which bring together thought-leaders and stakeholders around some of the most pressing issues in Illinois’ innovation economy.

ISTC’s data collection (and metrics) has been very helpful and fills an important and otherwise unmet need.

Bruce Layton

Special Assistant to the President for Government Relations, Northwestern University


STEM Challenge Success Story

As part of ISTI’s STEM Challenge program, students are asked to come up with innovative solutions to big and complex problems. Sometimes those issues are global, other times they are problems right in their own backyard…literally.  In 2016, students at North Chicago Community High School (NCCHS) worked with mentors from AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in North Chicago, to address health literacy in their community.  

In 2016, more than 200 students were prohibited from coming to school at NCCHS because they didn’t have their state-mandated vaccines by the October deadline. One team of students drew from their own experiences to come up with a solution: Laura Ocampo, Kyara Ocampo, Lizeth Ayala, and Guadalupe Alvarez came to the conclusion that they could help their fellow students by creating a school-based health clinic with the goal of improving their access to care, decreasing absences, and offering training opportunities for students like themselves in the healthcare pathway.

This summer their idea become a reality. More than 110 volunteers from AbbVie spent a collective 805 hours painting hallways and transforming the former deans’ offices into a health clinic.  Read more…  

Learn more about STEM Challenges here.

Looking Forward

For the 2017-18 school year, over 2,000 students at 40 Illinois high schools are working with 550 mentors on independent research and STEM Challenge projects. We are grateful for the support of this year’s STEM Challenge partners are excited to see new student innovations at ISTI’s Student Showcase on April 26, 2018!

Help grow the next generation of STEM talent! 

Have your company support a STEM Challenge
Sponsor the Student Showcase event
Become a mentor on Mentor Matching Engine


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The STEM challenge has become an integral part of our curriculum.  Participating in the challenge has numerous benefits for our students – it allows them to see what their job may be like, interact with industry professionals, gain experience solving a complex, multi-step, real-world problem, and it allows students to gain content knowledge, refine presentation skills and grow in self-confidence.  It is one of the most authentic and meaningful learning experiences we provide for our students each year.

Jeff Hollenstein

Lead Teacher for Career Pathways, North Chicago Community High School


Immigration, Tax Credits, Regional Innovation Strategies, & Startup Act

ISTC continues to play an active role in the push for immigration reform to ensure that Illinois and the U.S. maintain a position of leadership and competitiveness in the global economy. In partnership with the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) and, ISTC aggressively advocated in support of DACA, the International Entrepreneur Rule, and utilized our data to highlight the outsized role immigrants and foreign national students play in STEM degree production, entrepreneurship, and the tech workforce. Read more.

In 2017, Illinois passed legislation to reinstate the expired R&D and angel investment tax credits. In partnership with Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization (iBIO) and the Illinois Manufacturing Association (IMA), ISTC helped to make the case that these tools provide a strong return on investment and help to retain and attract innovation-driven companies and entrepreneurs in Illinois.

Throughout 2017, ISTC furthered its partnership with SSTI – a national nonprofit that strengthens initiatives to create a better future through science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship – as part of its Innovation Advocacy Council.  In collaboration with representatives from more than a dozen other states, we engaged members of Congress on a number of innovation issues, including funding for the Regional Innovation Strategies Program (which was increased to $22 million in FY17) and the Startup Act, a bipartisan effort to boost innovation across the nation and encourage the creation and growth of new business, which was reintroduced by the Senate in 2017. Read more.

ISTC advocates for sound policies and programs at the state and federal levels. We actively support legislation and initiatives that have a positive impact on research, innovation, and technology commercialization. Moving into 2018, our voice will become even more critical to push back on hostile policies towards science and innovation, and to proactively advocate for key programs and policies.

SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council is an initiative we started to better communicate with and educate Congress on innovation issues. In partnership with ISTC and representatives from a dozen other states, so far we’ve held more than 200 meetings with Congressional offices, provided input on multiple bills and policy proposals, and this work led to $40 million in funding for the Regional Innovation Strategies program. It is important to have this multi-state effort to show Congress that support for these initiatives and programs is a non-partisan, across-the-country imperative.

Dan Berglund

President & CEO, SSTI

Advocacy in the News:


Innovation Highlights

In 2017, the Smart Grid Cluster (SGC) concluded it’s 7th and final year of the US Small Business Administration Regional Innovation Cluster program. Illinois Institute of Technology initiated SGC in 2010, in partnership over time with ISTC, Clean Energy Trust, Energy Foundry, the University of Illinois Research Park, and others. The SBA invested just over $3 million over the life of the grant to help the partners support the commercialization of new technologies in the grid modernization and clean tech space. These startups raised $106.7 million in public and private funds. The partners identified over 1,400 potential cluster companies, hosted events with 9,800 participants, and placed student interns with 25 of the cluster companies.

The Illinois Corporate-Startup Challenge is ISTC’s flagship innovation initiative: a national award–winning program that connects global corporations with the entrepreneurial community for mutual benefit. ​To date, we have hosted 17 private demo days that give entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their innovative emerging technology companies to high-level decision-makers at leading corporations. We have facilitated 178 startup pitches, 128 of which led to active deal exploration. The program has delivered 18 wins (in the form of contracts, pilots, investments, or strategic partnerships), with 15 partnerships still in active discussions.

Get involved!

Contact us to learn more about our corporate innovation programs, which help to facilitate partnerships with the region’s brightest tech innovations.

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