Consulting by Innovate@UIC

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Consulting by Innovate@UIC

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Consulting by Innovate@UIC

Research institutions generate an abundance of promising new technologies; moving these technologies from the proof of concept stage to market often requires a team with diverse talent dedicated to support the inventor and navigate the commercialization path.

Innovate@UIC proudly offers a vehicle to assist innovators involved in complex research plan the commercialization pathway while providing an open but structured learning environment. The Consulting by Innovate@UIC program supports innovators by surrounding them with University students (graduate and post-doctoral), technology managers from the UIC Office of Technology Management, seasoned entrepreneurial talent, and in-house skills and experience to create a  team capable of developing and executing a roadmap (path to market) for their technology.

How it works

The fundamental idea behind this program is to support innovators by surrounding them with talent that will help to outline a commercialization roadmap, define milestones necessary to progress along the roadmap, and ensure the technology is commercially viable. 

This approach to the development of complex research is a staple that fuels them model behind HTI, EW Chicago’s proof of concept center and host of the Consulting by Innovate@UIC program. Kapila Viges, Director of EW Chicago, believes that the path toward commercialization should no longer be thought of as a linear process. “The path for commercialization of complex research requires depth and breadth of resources and expertise.…at the earliest stages we aim to accelerate that path and enable technology and market feasibility to occur in parallel.”

Consulting by Innovate@UIC brings that approach to life.

Who it helps

By pairing consulting teams with early stage innovators, more robust strategies for navigating the commercialization pathway are being developed.

Take, for example, Dr. Alan Zdunek, Professor at the UIC College of Engineering.

Dr. Zdunek has received Proof-of-Concept (POC) funding from the UIC Chancellor’s Innovation Fund and is in the process of perfecting a new, less expensive, method for converting salt water into fresh water.  He noted that “Being a professor, you don’t always consider the same questions [the consulting team] asks, especially when your technology is in the proof of concept stage”.

As technology milestones for Dr. Zdunek’s innovation were executed through POC funding, in parallel with consulting teams, a clear path toward commercialization became more apparent and helped to narrow the project focus.  This presented new opportunities to be explored.

This approach also attempts to prep future innovators on how to adopt this process for accelerating their own innovation. Divya Vasudevan, a Ph.D. student at UIC, became involved in the program because she was interested in pursuing a career in life sciences.  She felt it important to put her education into a real-world context in order to stand apart from her peers.

Divya is the project lead on a team working with a technology called the RetMap and CLEAr Lens ™ System.  This system is a novel and cost-effective technology for early glaucoma detection.

“The program expands career opportunities by enabling me to hone my business skills and understand strategic planning.” Divya stated.  “We’re learning valuable skills such as how to lead a consulting team, time management, communication and people skills and how to think outside the box when planning a strategy.”

Shifting the traditional view of the commercialization process is a practice that Innovate@UIC believes will help to increase the quality of viable startups that stem from the UIC innovation community. Consulting by Innovate@UIC will prove to be another powerful tactic in meeting the University's mission to have an economic impact in the Chicago-land area.