InventIllinois FAQs

What is InventIllinois?

  • The InventIllinois program is a new opportunity for researchers and technology entrepreneurs with a passion for high-science to bring their product from concept to pilot and, ultimately, to the marketplace by enhancing their ability to compete for federal funding.
  • High-science researchers are inventing the future right now in laboratories across the country. InventIllinois gives our state the opportunity to support these researchers in addressing key business challenges, which will expand our state’s high-science industry in an economically meaningful way.
  • InventIllinois will provide commercialization support for entrepreneurs not typically available through traditional incubators by increasing local entrepreneurs’ access to federal seed funds for early-stage, high-science product development.
  • Through InventIllinois, the WBDC will build relationships between researchers, entrepreneurs, and corporate partners with common technology and research interests to identify solutions for top business challenges.

How will InventIllinois benefit Illinois/Chicago?

  • Entrepreneurs throughout Illinois have viable high-science concepts but are not taking advantage of available federal resources to take their concepts to the next level at the same rate as those in other states. Increased access to U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding will help Illinois compete nationally in the high-science arena.
  • InventIllinois will support our researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs as they think bigger, and allow us to invest in disruptive technology and products that will help solve national business challenges.
  • InventIllinois will make Illinois a more competitive science and technology hub by creating a third-party R&D platform that provides solutions to the top business challenges of the federal government and corporations.

Who should apply to the program?

  • Entrepreneurs and researchers in all high-science industries, including – but not limited to – biotechnology, robotics, and new mobility, with an establish concept they would like to pilot and bring to the marketplace.
  • We have three targeted groups of potential participants:
    • High-science researchers interested in partnering with entrepreneurs to take their concept into the marketplace;
    • Technology entrepreneurs looking to help a researcher make their high-science concept a reality;
    • Entrepreneurs with a high-science concept that need support taking their research to the next level.
  • The WBDC is committed to increasing access to early-stage funding for women, minority, and veteran entrepreneurs and researchers, who are traditionally underrepresented in the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program – currently accounting for less than 20% of recipients. We are working with regional partners to help us identify researchers in these underrepresented groups for the InventIllinois
  • With the InventIllinois program, the WBDC hopes to fuel the development of early-stage, high-science products across the state and bridge the gap in funding opportunities for these underrepresented groups.
  • InventIllinois will connect researchers with government resources, corporate partners, and technology entrepreneurs that can help them bring new high-science products into to the marketplace.
  • Whether people are looking for a business partner with whom they can collaborate, the next big technology concept to champion, or simply looking for guidance from experts as to how they can take their concept to pilot and, ultimately, to the marketplace, InventIllinois will offer the support they need.

Who are your partners for this program?

  • The WBDC will be supported by the technological expertise of Invent2026, experts in commercialization, entrepreneurial product strategy, and the SBIR process.
  • We are also looking for corporate partners interested in supporting InventIllinois participants through business plan development and product conceptualization.
  • Through InventIllinois, the WBDC connects corporate partners with a diverse talent pool of researchers and entrepreneurs who are developing innovative products that can disrupt the marketplace.
  • Corporate partners will have the opportunity to guide product development through risk-mitigated research. Partnering with these entrepreneurs now could help businesses maintain or establish competitive advantages in the future.

Who is funding the program?

  • The WBDC, supported by the technological expertise of Invent2026, has received a Federal and State Technology (FAST) grant to launch InventIllinois, a program to make Illinois more competitive in the high-science industry.
  • The FAST grant is a competitive grants program administered by the SBA and designed to strengthen the technological competitiveness of small businesses and help keep the U.S. on the cutting edge of innovation in science and technology.
  • This is only the second time Illinois has received this award since the FAST grant was established in 2001.

How will entrepreneurs that participate in InventIllinois receive funding for their products?

  • The team leading InventIllinois, including the WBDC’s entrepreneurship experts and Invent2026’s technological experts, will help researchers and entrepreneurs apply for federal funding through the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
  • InventIllinois experts will help entrepreneurs develop essential business tools including a technical feasibility analysis, productization strategy, intellectual property strategy, and an overarching business plan.
  • Ultimately, the materials developed during the 12-week program will help participants draft and submit a more competitive application for relevant SBIR grants.

What are SBIR grants?

  • There is a dramatic gap between when researchers need funding to bring their high-science concept into the marketplace and when investors are ready to support their concept.
  • The U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which offers $2.5 billion in federal grants annually, helps bridge this gap for researchers, providing them with the funding they need to help their idea take shape in an economically meaningful way.
  • SBIR grants offer researchers trying to bring their product from concept to pilot and, ultimately, into the marketplace a better chance of receiving funding than most other funding sources.
  • Individuals applying for Phase I grants have a 15-30% of receiving up to $250,000 in initial non-diluted funding.

How is this program different than what incubators are doing?

  • Incubators provide an incredibly valuable service to our community, supporting entrepreneurs and helping them access capital so they can successfully build their ideas, and we hope our efforts will complement the work of these incubators by targeting a different group of entrepreneurs.
  • Incubators typically want investments with quicker turnarounds than high-science researchers may be able to provide. InventIllinois will specifically target researchers and entrepreneurs that are solving national business challenges that take years to address.
  • These are extremely complex issues that require seed money so researchers can build their concept to a point where investors may be interested.
  • We will connect these researchers with non-diluted federal funding that will help bridge the gap between concept and a product ready for the marketplace.

How will you ensure recruitment of underserved populations?

  • The WBDC is uniquely qualified to help diversify the SBIR fund recipient pool. We have spent over 30 years developing relationships with diversity partners across the state, including Black Tech Mecca and The Bunker, and can leverage these relationships to identify qualified participants from underrepresented groups.

What makes you qualified to provide this education?

  • For over 30 years, the Women’s Business Development Center has worked to foster economic empowerment through entrepreneurial counseling, technical assistance, and access to capital for each stage of the business life cycle.
  • Since 1986, the WBDC’s business experts have helped countless entrepreneurs in Illinois and throughout the Midwest through various stages of their business from establishing an initial business plan to scaling their business up to a multi-million-dollar company.
  • Experts in entrepreneurial project strategy, commercialization, and the SBIR process, Invent2026 has helped X entrepreneurs acquire SBIR funding.
  • Invest2026 partner, Alex Duchak, has developed and launched more than half a dozen global product and service lines since 2007 and successfully exited from a startup in 2010.
  • Invent2026 partner, Tom Day, helped build The Bunker, an incubator for veteran-owned businesses.

How do people apply for InventIllinois?

  • The WBDC is now accepting applications for the inaugural InventIllinois class, which will launch in January 2018. For more information or to apply visit wbdc.org/inventillinois/.
  • Corporations interested in supporting these entrepreneurs should contact Jason Rebello, the WBDC’s Direct of the InventIllinois program at 312 853 3477 ex. 660 or jrebello@wbdc.org.

What are the requirements for the program?

  • Researchers and entrepreneurs interested in the InventIllinois program must be licensed in the state of Illinois.
  • After completing a brief intent to apply on our website, interested program participants will schedule a phone interview with the InventIllinois team to determine their eligibility for the program.

When is the application deadline?

  • At this time, we are accepting applications on a rolling basis for our cohorts starting January 25th and February 27th.

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