Chicago Innovation Exchange


The University of Chicago plans to establish an innovation center, called the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE), that will be a hub for multidisciplinary collaborations and support for business start-up activities.

Read more about the Chicago Innovation Exchange »
Meet CIE Executive Director John Flavin »

CIE + Cisco Innovation Challenge

The Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) and Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (Cisco EIR) invite submissions from students, researchers, and entrepreneurs in the University of Chicago community working on startup product ideas related to the Internet of Things, the Internet of Everything, Big Data, and Analytics.

Learn more and apply now here »

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Chicago Innovation Exchange?

The Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) is the University of Chicago’s new hub for multidisciplinary collaborations and support for business start-up activities by University faculty, students and area entrepreneurs.

The CIE will bring together the University’s distinctive strengths in research and resources from a network of world-class entrepreneurship programs to drive innovation in a range of areas, applying scientific discoveries to generate scalable solutions to difficult societal problems.

What will be located at the Chicago Innovation Exchange?

The first phase of the CIE will provide workspace, gathering places, and meeting rooms that can accommodate a wide-range of users and visitors. The combined facility will include:

  • Coworking space for approximately 190 students, faculty, and visiting professionals
  • Dedicated office space for the CIE management team, Argonne National Laboratory, and the Institute for Molecular Engineering
  • Meeting spaces supporting formal and informal collaboration for groups of anywhere from 2 to 40 people, with a total capacity of 170
  • A flexible immersive-technology classroom
  • A variety of informal lounge and café spaces for up to 75 people
What kinds of businesses do you expect to come out of the CIE?

Argonne National Laboratory and the Institute for Molecular Engineering will serve as initial anchors for the CIE, so early opportunities are likely to come from energy storage technology and water resource management. The CIE also is expected to generate new businesses in life sciences, physical sciences, and tech- and web-based start-ups.

How will the CIE work exactly?

John Flavin, the CIE’s executive director, will be working over the next year to develop the best model of operation for the CIE to accomplish its goals—including determining the most needed programming and building partnerships. However, along with fostering collaborations among UChicago faculty and students, we expect the CIE to cultivate partnerships to connect emerging entrepreneurs with Chicago’s broader innovation ecosystem and drive the creation of new businesses, jobs, and economic activity in the city and surrounding region.

What parts of the University of Chicago will be involved in the Chicago Innovation Exchange?

The CIE will reach campus-wide to draw participation from different parts and affiliates of the University, including:

How will the Chicago Innovation Exchange be different from other innovation hubs in the Chicago area?

Among several differentiating factors, four in particular stand out:

  • The scope, depth and diversity of the disciplines and resources bring brought together at the CIE: energy, life sciences, engineering, social science, medicine, business development, and others. We anticipate a wide range of ventures emerging from CIE addressing a variety of economic and social challenges.
  • The involvement of three major research laboratories—including national labs Argonne and Fermilab, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. UChicago expects these affiliations to open up vast potential for discovery and innovation in energy, the environment, and security. Additionally, the CIE is an important element in the commercialization strategy for the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, the US Department of Energy’s $120 million energy innovation hub announced in November 2012.
  • The participation of Booth School of Business and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is at the core of the CIE. Polsky is an engine of new venture creation: its New Venture Challenge alone has created more than 90 currently active businesses since its inception in 1996.
  • Creation of the UChicago Innovation Fund, a $20 million venture philanthropic fund dedicated to proof-of-concept work to help new ventures attract outside commercialization funding.
How big will the physical facilities for the CIE be?

The CIE will occupy 17,000 square feet on the second floor of the Harper Theater complex; 6,000 square feet on the second floor of an adjacent office building; and 13,500 square feet of shared conference center space on the 11th floor of the Harper Court office tower currently under construction.

What will future phases of the Chicago Innovation Exchange entail?

A timetable for future phases has not been established. However, as currently envisioned, Phase II involves the design, construction and management of a 30,000-40,000-square-foot prototyping, wet lab, and computer fabrication core facility adjacent to the main CIE building. This facility will be available for use by all CIE and external partners.

How many jobs will this project create?

In the short term, renovation of space in the two properties at 53rd and Harper is expected to create about 50 jobs through construction and operations. Over the longer term, the number of jobs created will depend on the kinds of businesses developed out of the CIE. 

While we cannot predict a precise number of jobs, the CIE has tremendous potential to expand our economy, create jobs, and develop new ways of doing business or managing social challenges. So the overall economic impact is potentially quite vast.

How many new enterprises do you expect might emerge from the CIE?

The first phase of the CIE will have space to incubate five to 10 new companies a year.

How will the $20 million innovation fund work, and who will have access to the fund?

Like other elements of the CIE, details about the working of the fund will be determined over the next year. However, this new fund will expand the successful model established by UChicagoTech’s Innovation Fund, which has awarded more than $1.5 million to 23 projects since 2010. 


For more information, contact:

John Flavin
Executive Director, Chicago Innovation Exchange