Tuesday, August 28, 2018

UIS acquires downtown’s Innovate Springfield

In a move that’s been alluded to for more than a year, the University of Illinois Springfield has acquired Innovate Springfield, the downtown social innovation and business incubator founded in 2014 to spur economic growth in the capital city.

The incubator, 15 S. Old State Capitol Plaza, was officially turned over to the university on Aug. 1. City and university officials, including U of I system President Timothy Killeen, will announce the acquisition at a press conference on Tuesday.

The move immediately bolsters UIS’s downtown presence and gives the university a solid foundation on which to apply for one of several statewide innovation hubs to be established as part of the University of Illinois system-led Discovery Partners Institute.

The incubator has received a $500,000 funding commitment for each of the next three years. The city of Springfield and Land of Lincoln Economic Development Corporation will contribute $100,000 each, with the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln chipping in $50,000.

With local support locked down, the University of Illinois has agreed to match the funding with an additional $250,000 per year for the next three years.

“This will have more of an impact on the university coming truly more into the community than I think anything since the founding of Sangamon State University,” said John Stremsterfer, president of the Community Foundation.

“To have a sign on the building that says ‘University of Illinois Springfield’ is a great symbol, but I think the substance of work that will be created here, and hopefully in a bigger, more robust facility soon thereafter, is really exciting for the city.”

The incubator was founded in 2014 as a subsidiary to the Community Foundation, but UIS was “always squarely in my mind to be an ultimate repository for Innovate Springfield,” Stremsterfer said.

Though UIS has been a member of Innovate Springfield since its founding, conversations about the university taking over operations began in earnest in late 2017. And once the things got rolling, it was a fairly smooth process.

“They’re already successful,” said UIS chancellor Susan Koch. ”... One of the first things our team is going to do is work with them to expand the impact of what they are doing.”

Stakeholders say the university’s takeover will provide the incubator programmatic support, sources of startup talent, talent to help guide and mentor entrepreneurs, access to the U of I system alumni network and additional financial resources.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 27, 2018.

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