Greetings from ISTC Leadership
2022 was another unprecedented year as we moved into another phase of an emerging COVID-19 economy. We continued to witness the realities of the pandemic’s impact on our state’s human and economic health. Illinois was still challenged, but the collective power of government, corporate, and non-profit efforts not only rose to meet those challenges, but continued to deepen our understanding of what it means to be human and our commitment to helping everyone thrive.
Paradigm shifts were seen everywhere. As companies closed, other companies became more innovative. Employees continued in the great resignation as the definitions of work and work-life harmony morphed. Others navigated the new economy and found ways to not only survive, but thrive in the innovation and knowledge economies. Others fell further behind, while our state worked diligently in bridging the gaps . New entrepreneurial efforts were underway more than ever before, especially with historically marginalized founders. In our own Venture Engine program, fifty-percent of our showcase pitches were made by marginalized founders and 50% of our startup-corporate connections were made for marginalized founders. In our 2022 Illinois Innovation Index: University Entrepreneurship report, immigrant founders accounted for 42% of university startups, the highest we’ve ever recorded in this index. Accordingly, our efforts working for an entrepreneurship VISA continued. The report also noted the five year tracking period had a record number of women-founded startups as well as Illinois leading the nation in licensing revenue over the last five years.
2022 also marked our fifth annual Researchers to Know release celebrating twenty-four university researchers across the state and continuing in our efforts to not only celebrate but amplify that research. Earlier in 2022 we released our Illinois Innovation Index: Research and Development report which highlighted that even in a pandemic period, statewide research funding at Illinois universities hit an all-time high in Fiscal Year 2020 at $2.76 billion. Illinois remained in 10th for overall R&D activity at universities, FFRDCs, businesses, and all other performers
Through a year of continued caution, we were successful in connecting, aligning and supporting public and private members of the state’s STEM community. ISTC supported dozens of companies in their SBIR journey and we are grateful that the State of Illinois announced plans to actualize a $5 million grant match program for businesses that have received federal funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. ISTC was also elated to watch the Illinois Innovation Voucher legislation become law and included in the state’s 2023 budget. ISTC worked for several years on this legislation and we are thankful to all who supported it, especially the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) for remaining steadfast in that support. 2022 was a very busy year for us in grant leadership and support. From NSF Regional Innovation Engine grants, to others focused on quantum, clean energy and innovation investments. ISTC looks forward to continuing these efforts in 2023
ISTC’s Educational Institute celebrated its 10th year Anniversary in October and kicked off a year-long fundraising campaign called the Power of 10. Our goal is to reach $100,000 through direct donations and events through 2023 to help us expand our reach throughout the state. We also created a ten year educational impact report, which will be released at our Summer 23’ fundraiser. This last year has been another challenging year for educators and students and our education team rose to the challenge once again as we pursued lasting connections between companies and classrooms to build Illinois’ STEM talent pipeline. In 2022, we reached students across more than 49 Illinois high schools in 11 Counties and engaged with mentors in new and creative ways. Our global mentor network used our Mentor Matching Engine e-mentoring platform (MME) to meet the virtual and equity challenges on a deeper level than ever before. We are determined to bring MME to even more students and organizations across our state, as well as key partners across the country.
In 2021 we implemented our ARC equity framework across the organization, impacting vendor selection, team growth, our board, and every new and legacy program we created and supported. Through our equity framework we reimagined what our membership table could look like and those who were seated there. Our outreach in 2022 continued to include more non-profits, smaller innovative colleges and universities and emerging startups throughout Illinois. We are also proud to say that we met or surpassed our equity goals in 2022 (see Equity section) with the exception of our team growth, which we will continue to make a top priority in 2023.
We’d like to recognize and thank our committed group of members, partners, and funders, who represent the heartbeat of the state’s innovation community and work to enrich the state’s economy. They not only shared our passion and mission; they were unwavering in their support.
Finally, we thank our tremendous board of directors for their dedicated leadership and ongoing guidance through another unprecedented year. We’d also like to thank them for their support in our ever evolving strategic vision as we navigate our ever changing world and our ever evolving technology based economic development.
We invite you to review our annual report to learn more about our 2022 accomplishments. Our work has always been rooted in bringing “Idea to impact.” Through I-D-E-A, Innovation, Data, Education, and Advocacy, we continue to make a meaningful impact on the STEM community as we pursue our strategic vision. We look forward to advancing our supportive journey with all of you.
Illinois Science & Technology Coalition
Executive Director, University of Illinois Research Park & EnterpriseWorks Technology Business Incubator
Board Chair in 2022
Laura Appenzeller, Executive Director,
University of Illinois Research Park & EnterpriseWorks Technology Business Incubator
New Board Members in 2022
Azurii Collier, PhD, AbbVie
Holly Copeland, Horizon Therapeutics
Somali Tomczak, Nicor Gas
Nicole Presperin, New Ventures Group
New Members in 2021
Thanks To All Of Our Supporters
We continued in 2022 to choose vendors meeting our equity guidelines and brought in more women and minority founded companies. Our accounting, auditing, design, DEI, grant, educational, external consultants and vendors are over 70% women or minority led companies and we will continue to maintain levels over 50%.
We set a 25% diversification goal for our board in 2021 and our board of 15 ended the year with 53% women and/or minority members. In 2021 our board was 14% women and our goal for 2022 was to bring that number to 25%. We are proud to report that our 2022 board of 19 members is 63% women and/or minority members and looking at women alone we surpassed our target of 25% to reach 37%. Having made such great progress in 2022, our goal for 2023 is to continue to have a diverse and impactful board of directors representing unique voices from across our ecosystem.
Our team continues to grow and is currently 75% women, 25% minority. Our goal through 2022 was to increase our black and latinx team by 20%, which we did not accomplish with two new roles. Our goal for 2023 is to continue growing our team focused on aligning with the diversity of our ecosystem.
Our DEI work continues in everything we do and we are proud of our partnerships with The Darkest Horse, Ethos, and the #UntilJusticeJustIs campaign.
Learn more here: www.istcoalition.org/arc-framework
In 2021-2022, the Venture Engine community experienced amazing growth and developed several opportunities designed to bridge the gap between startups, corporate innovation leaders, and investors. Through the relationship that the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition has with World Business Chicago and TechNexus Venture Collaborative, we are proud to have created an incredible pipeline of connectivity and support for the statewide innovation ecosystem.
Since the launch of Venture Engine in 2021, our community has grown to 171 startups, of which 43% are led by a minority founder.
The connections made between startups and corporations or VC’s throughout the programming year have led to 34 ongoing conversations on diverse forms of partnership and investment.
To learn more about our innaugural year, check out Venture Engine’s pilot assessment.
Venture Engine Insights
Venture Engine had several major focus points in its pilot year. We aimed to establish a deeper foundation of equity by increasing the number of underrepresented
founders on our platform and positioning those founders for success through programming opportunities.
We also focused on the growth of our collective ecosystem. We worked to ensure that the number of startups on the platform and the diversity of sectors they represented
were a reflection of emerging industry trends and our corporate partners.
The Venture Engine platform has representation from over 75 different industry sectors. The top 10 sectors that make up our startup community include:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Health and Wellness
- Data Analytics
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Food and Beverage
Corporate and VC Connections
The Venture Engine program defines connections not just in terms of the new and mutually beneficial relationships created, but also in terms of the active engagement within these established relationships. The connections made between startups and corporations or VC’s through showcases and workshops have led to 34 ongoing conversations on the following forms of partnership and investment:
• Business development
• Capital Investment & Funding
• Lab space and equipment support
• Client relationship
• Sales contract
Startup to Startup Connection
Over the pilot year, the power of Venture Engine has extended beyond corporate-startup connectivity into collaborative relationships between startups on the platform. Several
of our founders have added value to our startup community by offering their products, services, and expertise to Venture Engine startup members. There have been numerous
connections made between founders across different sectors which have led to sales contracts and partnerships.
The chemistry that has evolved within Venture Engine has become yet another value add in helping Illinois-based founders build relationships with like-minded peers who can
also help support their success. Although Venture Engine is not a co-working space or incubator, the fact that startups can still actively collaborate and create mutually beneficial business opportunities speaks to the power of what is being developed in our community.
Examples of startup-to-startup connections include:
- Megan Murday (Founder and CEO, Metric) has made her ESG platform available to our
community of startups to help them capture their carbon emissions and improve their
- Equipt has helped startup companies such as Aquaoso and Clear Flame diversify their
company cultures through DEI strategy and talent support.
- LYLA, an employee benefit app for businesses with large employee bases, has partnered
with Nanniest by adding their childcare services as a third-party resource on their platform.
As the Venture Engine ecosystem continues to grow, we will continue to facilitate more
opportunities for our startups to exchange resources, host workshops, and partner
with one another.
Events and Community Engagement
Over the course of Venture Engine’s pilot year, there were several well-attended workshops and pitch showcase events designed to amplify the innovation of our startup founders and ecosystem leaders. In our first year, Venture Engine partnered with or hosted over 50 different actively engaged corporations and VCs.
8 pitch showcases
- Black Founders
- Food and Beverage Innovation
- PropTech/Built Environment
- Gender Equity in Tech
- New Industry Disruptors
- Culture Forward (Future of Work)
- Untapped Toolkit Series (Diverse Founders Breakfast)
10 Lunch and Learns
- Protecting Business Innovation and Intellectual Property
- Diversifying Talent Pipelines
- Creating/Improving Pitch Decks
- Pitch Delivery
In 2021-2022, Venture Engine grew its entrepreneurial community, developed systems of support for startup advancement, and created opportunities for founders to not only
showcase their products but connect with innovation leaders and investors.
As we continue building upon our pilot’s success, we have identified critical points for improvement which include:
1. Addressing our programming gaps across sectors
2. Increasing the number of minority startups on the platform.
3. Increasing impact across the state.
The goals we’ve outlined for 2023 will require an increased engagement of our partners statewide. Our start-up ecosystem drives the Illinois innovation economy. Creating more
opportunities provides more growth, including job creation, the attraction and retentionof talent, driving more innovative startups state-wide, and improving equity for historically underrepresented groups.
ISTC and its partners in Venture Engine are proud to be facilitators of this success. If you are interested in partnering with us, please contact ISTC Venture Engine coordinator,
Oluwatobi Oladejo, at [email protected].
Researchers to know 2022
In 2022, ISTC released its fifth annual list of “Researchers to Know” across Illinois’ universities. Though this list is far from comprehensive, it provides a more detailed look at some of the researchers that are driving innovation in the state—from those advancing new treatments in medicine, to those revolutionizing sustainability practices and shaping new technologies in the 21st century.
To create this list of distinguished researchers, ISTC reached out to university partners across the state to nominate faculty that have demonstrated excellence in their work. An emphasis was also placed on researchers that have recently achieved milestones, such as publishing an influential paper, receiving national recognition, or commercializing a new innovation. What followed was a cross-section of noteworthy faculty from all corners of the state – each possessing unique research strengths that illustrate the critical role of Illinois’ university research in the national innovation economy.
Illinois Innovation Index: Research & Development
- Statewide R&D Activity dropped by $1 billion between 2017 and 2018 according to the most recent data available from the National Science Foundation (NSF)
- Illinois ranked 9th nationally in Business R&D activity with $14.1 billion spent by Illinois companies on research in 2019, an increase of a little over $950 million compared to 2018
- Business R&D intensity in Illinois lags behind the national rate of 2.62% with Illinois business R&D activities equaling just 1.76% of total industry output in the state.
- 7,085 new patents were issued to Illinois companies in 2020, including the 292 new issues that went to top patent producer Caterpillar
- Statewide research funding at Illinois universities hit an all-time high in Fiscal Year 2020 at $2.76 billion
- 61.3% of this past year’s research activity was in the life sciences sector in Illinois, 12.8% in Engineering
- Higher education research funding increases have achieved results as well, university
- patents went up to 302 in 2020, also a record high
- Illinois continues to rank 8th nationally in research funded by industry at the state’s institutions of higher learning; $169 million in business support was provided in FY 2020, a $10 million decrease compared to the record high in 2019
Illinois Innovation Index: University Entrepreneurship
- 760 new startups were formed on campuses between Academic Year 2018 and 2022; down from the 958 formed between 2013 and 2017
- Non-Tech Transfer startup creation fell from an average of 159 between 2012 and 2019 to 110 between 2020 and 2022
- Our collection found that university-supported startups created 2,281 new jobs over the last five academic years
- Of the jobs created by these small businesses, 73.65% remain active
- 75.7% of active jobs created by university-supported startups remain in Illinois
- Our estimates regarding the representation of diverse founders indicates that this year’s group of founders is more diverse than ever before, 37% of university-supported startups feature a woman as a founder or co-founder, 43% feature an immigrant founder or co-founder.
- Illinois led the nation in licensing revenue over the last five years
- On average, for every dollar a founder received in university awards or prizes, they could expect nearly $14 in additional VC funding
- Direct university funding recipients are more likely to remain active and attract follow-on funding than the general population of founders
Illinois Innovation Index: STEM Talent Pipeline
- Record number of STEM Degree earners in the last academic year (2021 Graduates) in Illinois; 27,285
- In 2021 22.06% of degrees awarded in Illinois were STEM related
- Nationwide 677,366 STEM Degrees were conferred, another record high
- Record Number of Computer and Information Science Degrees conferred by Illinois universities (5,822)
- Fastest growing Illinois STEM Subject Areas over the last 10 years is Business Management (14.81% annualized growth), Computer and Information Sciences (9.78%) and Interdisciplinary Studies (8.81%).
- Biggest Degree Areas in 2021 in Illinois were Engineering (6,238), CIS (5,822) and Biological Sciences (4,816)
- .8% reduction (-.8%) in the counting number of STEM positions filled between 2020 and 2021 nationwide. This amounted to a fall of just under 150,000 year over year (149,100).
- Impact of the pandemic was most noticeable in this area in Illinois as well as the job growth trend seen in the 2020 STEM Talent Index reversed. Between 2020 and 2021 the number of STEM positions filled by workers in Illinois dropped by just under 15,000. A drop of about 2.2% (-2.2%)
- Over the past decade employers have added 68,440 new STEM Jobs to the Illinois economy. While 2021 was a bit of a lull in growth we can expect that next year’s numbers will reflect a more robust opening of the economy that has occurred in 2022
- Women made up a higher share of STEM Degree completions than in any previous year on record in 2021 (39.03%)
- A higher number of women working in STEM Fields was recorded in 2021 than in any year prior as well; 137,971 women occupy positions in STEM fields
- Despite making up 14.7% of the population of Illinois according to 2020 Census Data black individuals comprised only 4.41% of STEM degree earners in 2021 and 5.53% of STEM employees. These represent the lowest figures in ISTC’s collection of data for this Index issue.
- SBIR/STTR awards are given out annually to some of the top aspiring business leaders in Illinois. Over the last 20 years $923.8M in federal funds have been injected into the Illinois innovation economy as a result of this program
- In 2020, Illinois small businesses received 146 grants (14th in the nation)
- Since 2014, the amount of SBIR/STTR funding being earmarked towards small businesses based in Illinois has increased each year, rising from just under $44 million (17th in the nation in 2014) to just over $73 million (13th in the nation in 2020)
- Over the last 20 years 75.56% of award dollars have been sent to businesses north of Kankakee. Grants received by founders in the Chicago area, Evanston, Geneva, Oak Park, Rockford, La Salle and other cities in Northern Illinois amounted to $696,821,212
- Central Illinois is getting an increasingly large slice of total SBIR funding for Illinois. Between 2001 and 2004 only around 15% of awards, both by funding amount and count, went to small business founders in the region. Since 2004 there has been a substantial increase in the percentage of total awards going to Central Illinois; in 2020 Central Illinois’ small businesses received 33.6% of all awards and 32.1% of all funding
- Despite having the 5th highest economic output in the entire United States, Illinois is behind many other states in the amount of SBIR awards coming from the Department of Defense (16th from 2011 to 2020) and the Department of Health and Human Services (14th from 2011 to 2020) overall
- Illinois underrepresented founders received 10.3% of SBIR awards in 2020, higher than the national rate of 7.6%.
- SBIR awards to small businesses founded by Women in Illinois have trailed the national average for the last decade, with the most recent full data year in 2020 showing that just 9.7% awards have gone to such business in Illinois, whereas the national rate was 11.5% in 2020
In 2012, ISTC created the Illinois Science & Technology Institute (ISTI), the 501c3-affiliate, in response to an increased need to bridge what was happening in the classroom and the innovation in the real world. ISTI was developed after the corporate and university members of the Coalition recognized the need to build a more inclusive, diverse STEM pipeline in the state. Now 10 years later, ISTI has served over 14,000 students and built roots across the state. Stay tuned for the release of the 10 year impact report highlighting the last decade of impact.
ISTC Education has always been in the business of removing barriers and cultivating experiences that foster innovation. With another successful program year behind us, our community of students, teachers, and mentors explored everything from technology, to healthcare, social justice to AI, and everything in between. The Education team welcomed a new cohort of students with the expansion of The 6×3 Project Series and hosted new schools, new teachers, and new mentors on the Mentor Matching Engine.
Our corporate partners in this work for 2022 included:
The Mentor Matching Engine has been a critical player in continued programming during the pandemic. Its ability to connect professionals and students anytime and anywhere opened new doors for students when many had been closed. The Student Research Showcase, hosted at Tech Nexus welcomed 8 student groups to present their research from the year. Our panel of distinguished judges including Bri Caplan of Code Your Dreams, Sandee Kastrul of I.C Stars, and Rada Yovovich from the Darkest Horse, pushed student thinking and offered a deeper dive into each topic. ISTC Education awarded the following 8 awards in honor of each group.
Meeting the Moment – The past few years have illuminated major issues facing our youth, schools, communities, and society. This award is for the research that is meeting the moment and uncovering the dynamic truths of the current world we are living in.
From Classroom to Real World – This award is for the future innovator who has developed a design ready for the real world. All students who have created a product, prototype, or blueprint idea are encouraged to apply. Working and non working solutions are encouraged to apply.
Community Champion – This award will recognize the researchers taking on issues and challenges within the community. Your work may have raised awareness or offered new solutions and we believe you have been a champion for your community. Any projects focused on serving the community should apply!
Engaging in Equity – Researchers tackling projects focused on uncovering, understanding, and solving the systemic inequities that our society faces are truly the changemakers of tomorrow. This award is for the powerful advocates of our future. All social justice projects are eligible to apply.
Rockstar Rookie – Research can be intimidating. So when students dive into this process for the first time, it takes confidence and courage! This award is for the courageous students who are new to research and persisted through the process!
Ion the Prize – You put the S in STEM! This award is for projects rooted in hard sciences.
Pixel Perfect – Technology is at the cornerstone of innovation in today’s world. We communicate, schedule, make purchases, travel, and interact with the world around us through the connectivity and power of tech. This project looked at a problem through a technical lens, used technology to improve or innovate on their research hypothesis, or had a solution rooted in tech, whether it was an app, AI, a website, or other technology.
Journey of Innovation – At ISTC, we celebrate the story behind your innovation. The winding road that leads you to pivot and shift your end goal and scope of your projects is just as important as the final conclusion. This is for the projects that made you embrace the journey of design thinking and research, and told the story of that journey.
of students reported improved confidence in STEM skills
of teachers reported that their students improved their overall STEM skills
of mentors reported that they value that their company provides opportunities for skills-based volunteering
The STEM Challenge Showcase, hosted at the Chicago Cultural Center, welcomes almost 300 guests back in person for our largest culminating event. With presentations from 16 schools and 10 corporate partners, the STEM Challenge Showcase highlighted the importance of iteration, collaboration, and mentorship.
of students reported an increased confidence in their teamwork
of students reported an increased confidence in their problem solving skills
2022’s 6×3 program is proud to have served 30 students across 19 schools!
Act Project: In collaboration with Baxter International, students were challenged to assist in the development of new technologies to improve patient health outcomes through telehealth. In partnership with Baxter and Code Your Dreams, students learned about accessibility challenges for diabetic patients, and designed, built, and presented their solutions in the form of an app.
Bright Project: In collaboration with Horizon Therapeutics, students were challenged to innovate solutions for addressing the challenges of patients living with thyroid eye disease. Students worked with Horizon mentors to better understand the patient journey throughout the design process, and in partnership with Code Nation and The Gray Matter Experience, students designed and pitched their website and app solutions to a panel of judges at the Bright Project Showcase.
of participants reported this was the first time they worked with a professional as a mentor
participants reported that the program increased their interest in pursuing a STEM field in the future
of participants would recommend the program to a friend or classmate
Illinois Innovation Vouchers
The Illinois General Assembly passed HB 1855 on Aug. 20, 2021, after two years of work and support by ISTC. This bill established the Innovation Voucher Program and takes effect as part of the 2023 budget. The legislation offers matching funds in the form of innovation vouchers up to 75 percent of the cost of research not to exceed $75,000. The program incentivises research and development in key industries, helping create new products and services to be marketed to Illinois businesses and individuals.
ISTC continues our Federal support of Immigrant Entrepreneurs and a Startup Visa. We had the honor of having Fiona McEntee, McEntee Law Group, as the keynote speaker for our University Entreprenuership Innovation Index event. She provided incredible insights on immigrants’ impact on Illinois innovation. Watch her keynote here.
Establishing partnerships in this work both in Illinois and D.C., we were asked to write an opinion piece for Crain’s Chicago Business and you can read more about it in this article.
SBIR Matching Program
The State of Illinois has announced plans to actualize a $5 million grant match program for businesses that have received federal funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The program was launched by Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.
The State of Illinois is currently accepting applications from businesses who have received a Phase I federal SBIR/STTR grant award.Eligible applicants can apply to receive up to $50,000 in matching grants, with the option to re-apply and receive up to five awards for each federal Phase I award received (one per fiscal year).
Awards are non-competitive and will be granted on a first-come-first-serve and rolling basis. Interested companies can learn more about eligibility, restrictions, application process, award process, and reporting requirements here.
“The SBIR program is an ideal source of seed funding to innovative research at technology startup companies, especially those emerging from the strong research universities and federal labs in Illinois. The FAST Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provides free assistance to entrepreneurs across Illinois to learn about funding opportunities and provide support for companies to write their proposals and form their operational plans to successfully meet their criteria of the awarding federal agencies,” said Laura Appenzeller, Executive Director of the University of Illinois Research Park.
ISTC is willing to provide support letters for those seeking SBIR/STTR funding. To connect with ISTC for a support letter, please email [email protected]