Chicago Innovation Exchange celebrates growth and expansion

Since opening its doors nearly one year ago, the Chicago Innovation Exchange has grown exponentially—the center has welcomed more than 1,100 new members, hosted nearly 400 programs and workshops, and offered more than 375 expert one-on-one advisory sessions. On Oct. 8, the CIE and the University of Chicago marked a new expansion—the opening of an incremental 7,000 square feet of space for entrepreneurs and innovators on 53rd Street in Hyde Park.


State and local elected officials, including Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, joined President Robert J. Zimmer and other notable attendees for an opening celebration Oct. 8 that included tours of the new CIE facility, which houses a new Fab Lab with state-of-the-art fabrication and prototyping equipment, along with additional business incubator, meeting and conference room space.

“For 125 years, the University of Chicago has been a source of innovative ideas that have changed the way people live, here in Chicago and around the world,” said Zimmer. “The Chicago Innovation Exchange has succeeded in extending this tradition and supporting the entrepreneurship of our faculty, students and community members as they develop new businesses and discoveries that will continue to influence our society.”

Located at 1463 E. 53rd St., the newest CIE space also serves as a collaborative hub for researchers from Argonne National Laboratory’s Joint Center for Energy Storage and Research, and the Institute for Molecular Engineering’s Collaborative Water Research Initiative, along with innovators from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Institute for Molecular Engineering. This is the first time that Argonne will have dedicated office space within the city.

“We are excited by the opportunity to increase Argonne’s role as a Chicagoland innovation partner,” said Argonne Director Peter B. Littlewood. “From advances in batteries that go beyond lithium-ion to the molecular engineering of water resources, bridging discovery and commercialization will help the lab and the region by bringing technologies to the marketplace and changing the world.”

This recent expansion of the CIE is just one of UChicago’s efforts to help facilitate innovation and commercialization on campus and in the surrounding communities. During his remarks, Zimmer also announced the launch of a new streamlined licensing program aimed at shortening the timeframe to start a company based on University technology, allowing the innovator to focus on product development while minimizing startups’ legal costs.

The UCGo! Startup License program is an effort spearheaded by UChicagoTech, the University’s Center for Technology Development and Ventures in collaboration with the CIE. UCGo! licensees may participate in structured commercialization programs at the CIE, and the University anticipates that the new licensing program will help to expedite the translation of ground-breaking research and technologies to the marketplace.

“The University of Chicago is committed to making it easier and faster to start and grow new businesses through new resources such as the UCGo! Startup Licensing program, which will lower the barriers for faculty, researchers and campus entrepreneurs to pursue business endeavors based on University of Chicago technology,” said John Flavin, executive director of the Chicago Innovation Exchange. “With the expansion of the CIE, the addition of the Fab Lab resources, new offices for groups from Argonne, Fermilab and IME, and UCGo!, we’re able to bring more people and ideas together in one location to facilitate rapid, organic collaboration and support entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries.”

The CIE’s new Fab Lab contains several 3-D printers, a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter, electronic testing tools and numerous woodworking machines. The state-of-the-art lab is designed to provide entrepreneurs with all of the equipment they might need to prototype or refine the design of a product. The equipment is paired with expert programming and advice to help entrepreneurs learn how to approach design and fabrication processes.