Illinois’ universities in general, have a two tier program – they generate interest through educational programs on applied entrepreneurship and then their technology transfer offices (TTOs) support the development by patenting, licensing and commercializing the invention. The technology transfer programs of universities in Illinois have been conducive for fledgling start-ups as they provide them the necessary help in the form of academic network, idea promotion, mentor-ship and fund securing.
As per the latest Illinois Innovation Index report, the number of start-ups being incubated by Illinois’ universities has increased three-folds in the last five years. The Index, an initiative of Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, Chamber of Commerce and World Business Chicago, presents information on the technology based entrepreneurial activity in Illinois on a quarterly basis.
Over the last 5 years, licensing by Illinois’ universities has grown at double the US national rate. Universities in the Chicago area produced 79% of university-generated start-ups since 2010, taking the total number of active start-ups to over 450. Two of Chicago’s major universities, Chicago University and North Western University, are responsible for nearly two-thirds of these start-ups. The success of these start-ups can be attributed to the entrepreneurship programs of these universities, i.e., North Western University’s flagship course in applied entrepreneurship, NUVention, and University of Chicago’s incubation program, Chicago Innovation Exchange, which has provided a 17,000 sq. ft space for students and residents. Together, these universities have launched some of the big names including Braintree, Grub Hub and Innoblative.
Around 75% of these start-ups are operating in the Biomedicine and IT domains. Some of the big life-sciences patents filed by Illinois’ universities in the last few years include Prezista, used to treat HIV, and Lyrica used to control seizures.