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EDA Funding Supports the Innovation
Economy in Illinois

Submitted by EDA Chicago Regional Office

Role of University Technology Park at IIT

ITT BuildingThe success of the U.S. innovation economy is rooted in the drive of entrepreneurial individuals to create products that serve human needs, and provide themselves with financial rewards and the satisfaction of developing successful enterprises in the process. Since the 1980's, the U.S. has attempted to accelerate the innovation process by supporting technology transfer from university research laboratories to support innovation in the market place. However, in the Chicagoland area, one missing element for technology development was the availability of affordable, flexible laboratory space for the incubation of nascent technologies.

On September 14, 2009, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) was awarded a $4.5 million ARRA grant by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to refurbish a building from the 1940's that will be used as a technology incubator. It was one of the largest grants ever given by the EDA for a technology incubator. This funding, combined with a $2 million matching grant from the State of Illinois, will enable the University Technology Park at IIT (UTP) to complete 28,000 square feet of Incubator space that will house up to 30 start-up companies in the biotechnology, clean/green technology, IT, food technology, diagnostics, and other high-tech industries. The design of the technology Incubator space accommodates 15 wet-labs, 9 dry-labs and 6 offices plus a shared equipment room with autoclave, glass washer, freezer, refrigerator, ice maker and centrifuge. UTP began construction in September of 2011 with a projected completion date of May, 2011.

In addition to the EDA, the Incubator’s strategic partners include all levels of government--state, federal, and local-- that have provided capital and operations funding for the park, while the Illinois Institute of Technology, the host institution, has provided the buildings and land. UTP also has benefited from partnerships with many non-profit associations and economic development organizations including the Illinois Biotechnology Organization, Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, World Business Chicago, and the Illinois Venture Capital Association.

University Technology Park at IIT plays a significant role in fostering technology transfer of innovations to the marketplace and the economy. Says David Baker, Vice President of External Affairs and UTP Executive Director, “We developed University Technology Park (UTP) to create an innovation ecosystem in Chicago. University Technology Park has consciously sought to support both university-based and non-university start-up companies. Our key role has been to attract and concentrate government and private funding to build the sophisticated laboratory facilities needed for life sciences and clean technology start-up and growth companies in Illinois. By doing this, we have succeeded in keeping companies in the Chicago region—for lack of available, affordable laboratory space.”

Regarding the Incubator’s economic impact, a feasibility assessment indicated that technology-based start-ups average 6 to 10 employees and generate higher average salaries at various educational levels than many other types of start-ups. Illinois currently projects such positions to generate salaries averaging $60,000 to $75,000, in excess of the median household income areas adjacent to the project site. When full, the Incubator will house 30 companies with over 100 employees.

The project’s job creation impact will not be limited to highly educated employees. Direct and indirect jobs will be created as the Incubator feeds growing companies into graduation space also located in the technology park. IIT and the City Colleges of Chicago will collaborate in identifying job opportunities in these companies and training local residents and others to fill them.

More details about UTP and its current client companies can be found at www.universitytechnologypark.com.