Women’s Business Development Center Launches InventIllinois to Help Bring New High Science Products to Market


December 20, 2017


Rachel Hatch


(248) 787-5632

Women’s Business Development Center Launches InventIllinois to Help Bring New High Science Products to Market

Program to support women, minority, and veteran researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to enhance their competitiveness for $2.5 billion federal seed funding

CHICAGO – The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) today announced they will launch a new program, InventIllinois, geared toward early-stage, high-science product development, such as advanced material sciences, biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, health sciences, energy, and more for technology innovators in Illinois.

The program is a new opportunity for researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs – especially those in underserved populations, such as women, minorities and veterans.  The WBDC will be collaborating with Invent2026, a nonprofit agency that offers support for applied research, technology transfer and entrepreneurship, to deliver the technological and commercialization expertise. This program will provide the researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs greater access to bring their products from concept to pilot and, ultimately, to the marketplace through a comprehensive curriculum and support services for pursuing federal grants.

InventIllinois will increase local entrepreneurs’ access to seed funds from the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which offers $2.5 billion in federal grants annually for early-stage, high-science product development,” said Emilia DiMenco, President and Chief Executive Officer at the WBDC.  “The program will help researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs compete for these grants, which are not currently accessed by Illinois at the same rate as other states.  Most importantly, through InventIllinois, the WBDC’s outreach will increase access to early-stage funding for women, minority, and veteran entrepreneurs and researchers, who are traditionally underrepresented in the SBIR program.”

The SBIR program is a highly competitive opportunity designed to increase the ability for researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to compete for grants.  Individuals applying for Phase I grants can receive up to $250,000 in funding – a marked advantage over other opportunities that generally require sharing equity for a smaller investment and lower likelihood of funding.  SBIR encourages domestic small businesses to engage in research and development that has potential for commercialization in high-science areas. Their mission is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds.  Currently, women, minority, and veteran entrepreneurs and researchers are vastly underrepresented in the SBIR funding program – recently accounting for less than 20 percent of SBIR grant recipients.

InventIllinois will help bring innovative technology to the marketplace and bridge the gap in funding opportunities for these underrepresented groups by increasing access to funding, all while making Illinois an even more competitive tech hub.

“Despite our vast accomplishments in Chicago and across the state, Illinois is ranked 16th behind states like California and Massachusetts in developing high-science products that solve business challenges,” explained Thomas Day, partner at Invent2026. “Entrepreneurs throughout Illinois are creating high-science technology but are not taking advantage at the same rate as those in other states of federal resources available to take their concepts to the next level and help Illinois compete nationally in this arena.”

Illinois is one of 21 states that has been awarded federal funding to solve this problem and bring innovative products to the marketplace. Through this Federal and State Technology (FAST) grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the WBDC will provide commercialization support for entrepreneurs not typically available through traditional incubators, connect aspiring business owners with corporate and government partners, and help move early-stage, high-science concepts to pilot and, ultimately, into the marketplace.

“The FAST program is designed to stimulate economic development and increase access to federal seed grants for underserved researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs,” SBA Illinois District Director Robert “Bo” Steiner said. “We look forward to seeing more technology-driven small businesses thrive and effect change throughout Illinois, thanks to support from InventIllinois and the WBDC.”

The WBDC is now accepting applications for the inaugural InventIllinois class, which will launch in January 2018. For more information or to apply visit www.wbdc.org/inventillinois/.


About WBDC

Since 1986, the Women’s Business Development Center’s mission has been to support and accelerate business development and growth, targeting women and servicing other underserved communities and veterans in order to strengthen their participation in and impact on the economy.

About Invent 2026

Invent2026 is a new nonprofit economic development agency serving the Chicago and Midwest regions through the support of applied research, technology transfer, and entrepreneurship. Invent2026 drives value creation from partner laboratories, ensuring that inventions take shape through startups and small businesses, supporting investor-ready deal flow and opportunities for federal acquisitions and mergers and acquisitions for corporate partners.

About FAST

FAST is a competitive grant program designed to strengthen the technological competitiveness of small businesses and improve the participation of small technology firms in the innovation and commercialization of new technology.  In FY 2017, $3,000,000 total was appropriated as grants for entities to carry out activities from September 30, 2017 through September 29, 2018.  All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa are eligible to receive funding for providing services such as outreach and technical assistance in support of the SBIR Programs. Additional information about FAST can be found at www.sbir.gov/about-fast.

About SBIR

The programs represent the nation’s largest source of early stage research and development funding for small businesses. The programs are administered by the SBA in collaboration with 11 federal agencies, which collectively supported more than $2.5 billion in federal research and development funding per year. Companies supported by the SBIR programs often generate some of the most important breakthroughs each year in the U.S.  Additional information about each program, as well as past and current topics can be found at www.sbir.gov

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