Innovation Fest to expand scope at UChicago and beyond

Global celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation to showcase ideas, research

Hackathon
One of many regular hackathons hosted at the Polsky Exchange. On May 5, a special “Building a Racecar” hackathon is scheduled as part of Innovation Fest.
Courtesy of
Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Rhianna Wisniewski
Assistant Director of Communications Office of the Executive Vice President for Research, Innovation and National Laboratories

Throughout the month of May, members of the University of Chicago community and the public will get a unique look at the programs and individuals responsible for the ideas, ventures and science that may someday change the lives of millions.

UChicago Innovation Fest 2017, a global celebration of entrepreneurship and discovery, will bring together the brightest minds in science, tech, the arts and business during a monthlong series of workshops, discussions, speaker events and competitions.

Scheduled from May 2 through June 1, this year’s fest has expanded its scope and influence beyond the UChicago campus. Events in Boston, San Francisco and the first international Innovation Fest event—a pitch event cohosted by the Chicago Angels Network and the Booth Alumni Club of the UK in London—are on the docket. On-campus events range from a presentation on the evolving state of alternative finance in the Americas to a daylong event hosted by the Smart Museum on how sites of culture can function as spaces of belonging.

“The diversity and range of this year’s Innovation Fest lineup really illustrates the vastness of ideas and research that are emerging from the University of Chicago today,” said John Flavin, associate vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation and head of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Launched in the spring of 2014 by the Polsky Center, UChicago Innovation Fest initially began as Innovation Week, a weeklong solution to connect the various finals competitions of the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge.

“Innovation Fest was born out of a strategic need to provide cohesion to our various NVC finals at the end of the year and grow the celebratory atmosphere around entrepreneurship,” said Starr Marcello, executive director of the Polsky Center. “To see how much it has grown in such a short period of time to include so many more disciplines and perspectives of the University is truly astounding.”

In 2016, to engage more students, faculty, staff and alumni from UChicago, the Polsky Center teamed up with partners in innovation across campus to create Innovation Fest as it exists today.

Last year’s fest was three weeks long, boasting more than 40 events that drew more than 3,000 unique attendees. The impetus for the fest’s expansion was the 20th anniversary of the NVC, and it featured events like a fireside chat with Braintree founder Bryan Johnson, MBA’07, an event showcasing the newest precision medicine, and a panel discussion with UChicago scientist entrepreneurs.

Monthlong event kicks off May 2

This year’s kickoff event on May 2 will feature a discussion by UChicago leadership and scientists on the vital role of translating research today. It will be followed by a series of two-minute talks that highlight scientists’ latest research and its promising impact on society.

“The University of Chicago brings together the expertise, support and resources that enable our faculty and other scholars, students and the scientists and engineers at our national laboratories, to tackle cutting-edge research and to take their ideas and inventions to market,” said Eric Isaacs, executive vice president for research, innovation and national laboratories. “This annual festival showcases those ideas, inventions and ventures that have the potential for major impact on society.”

UChicago has a strong innovation pipeline fueled by translational research and commercialization resources, which lead to the unique applications based on scientifically proven concepts that Innovation Fest celebrates each year.

“Groundbreaking research needs to live beyond the lab and be applied to medical, commercial and business applications in order to improve people’s lives,” said Susan Cohn, co-director of the University of Chicago Institute for Translational Medicine and dean for clinical research. “Innovation Fest celebrates these discoveries and shares them with the world so that everyone can benefit.”

Browse a full list of events here and follow along on social media using #InnoFest.