The University of Chicago has unveiled Polsky Deep Tech Ventures, a new initiative offering a suite of sector-specific accelerators, entrepreneurial training and funding dedicated to supporting startups that bring world-changing science and technology to market. This effort is aligned with the research strengths of UChicago, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
Drawing on the success of Chicago Booth School of Business’ New Venture Challenge and Duality, the nation’s first quantum startup accelerator, Deep Tech Ventures will launch three additional accelerators devoted to specific scientific disciplines, including data science, clean tech and life sciences. By providing sector-specific expertise from University research faculty and industry partners, the accelerators are designed to help startups from around the globe reduce technical and market risk as they position their innovations for real-world impact.
Each accelerator will leverage the resources of the University and its partners to provide startups with business training, as well as access to faculty advisors, industry mentors, venture capital connections, corporate networking opportunities, funding and student talent. The programs will be open to UChicago-linked ventures as well as non-University affiliated startups from around the nation and world.
Distinctively, the initiative will operate out of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, elevating the entrepreneurial mindset by incorporating innovative business ideas from Chicago Booth and bringing to market cutting-edge science and technology research from UChicago, the national labs, and beyond. “As the home for field-defining science and a world-renowned business school, and as a steward of two U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, Argonne and Fermilab, UChicago is uniquely positioned to develop and scale technologies that address humanity’s greatest challenges,” said UChicago President Paul Alivisatos.
The endeavor will be funded by more than $20 million in University and philanthropic investments over the next five years. Once fully deployed, Deep Tech Ventures expects to graduate at least 60 startups annually, with novel approaches to fight disease, address climate change, improve cybersecurity and more.
Startups will have access to various funding mechanisms. Deep Tech Ventures expects to raise an external $25 million venture fund in 2023 to support deep tech startups looking for seed-stage and Series A funding. The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation also operates the well-established George Shultz Innovation Fund, which provides up to $250,000 in co-investment funding for early-stage tech ventures arising from UChicago and UChicago-affiliated Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Over the last 12 years, the George Shultz Innovation Fund has invested $6.8 million in more than 90 companies that have gone on to raise $235 million in follow-on funding.
“We are pioneering a unique approach to the commercialization of next-generation technologies by providing the nation’s only full-spectrum deep tech accelerator and venture support organization,” said Jay Schrankler, associate vice president and head of the Polsky Center. “Given the complexities of these innovations, it is exceedingly valuable to offer startups sector-specific expertise to reduce both technical and market risk.”
In conjunction with the launch of Deep Tech Ventures, the second industry-specific accelerator, the Data and AI Accelerator, developed in partnership with the University’s Data Science Institute, is accepting applications until Jan. 20, 2023, for up to eight startups that will begin programming in mid-March 2023. The four-month program will be offered twice annually and will offer an intensive curriculum related to venture building as well as funding, space, computing resources, faculty advisors, industry mentors, access to venture capital and corporate partners, and access to student talent across the business, data science and computer science schools.
The clean tech and life sciences accelerators are slated to launch this year.
“As a materials scientist and innovator myself, I know the value of pairing scientific thinking with a business mindset, which is why the work at the Polsky Center is so important,” said Juan de Pablo, UChicago executive vice president for science, innovation, national laboratories and global initiatives. “The goal is to catalyze innovation and foster more entrepreneurs who can bring their groundbreaking research to the market, where it will have the greatest impact.”