Executive-in-Residence Nancy Harvey: Right Place, Right Time

Nancy Harvey. Photo by Lloyd DeGrane

Two out of two.

That’s how many new business ventures Nancy Harvey has seen come to fruition since she joined UChicagoTech, the University of Chicago’s Office of Technology and Intellectual Property, last October as an Executive-in-Residence.

It all started when a colleague at SRI in Palo Alto, Calif., suggested that she contact UChicagoTech because it was devoting more resources to working directly with entrepreneurial faculty to help them commercialize their best research ideas. University tech transfer offices have traditionally been more about protecting intellectual property than innovating, so Harvey did not know what to expect.

When she did call she quickly learned that the position of Executive in-Residence did not have a set job description. It was too fluid and open for that.

Instead, she found that Director Alan Thomas had a “controlled experiment” underway, as she puts it. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to be a part of it.”

“Thomas is trying to raise the tide at the University of Chicago and across the region by creating an environment and ecosystem more conducive to innovation, entrepreneurialism and new business formation,” she says. It takes a big force to raise the tide, so UChicagoTech is engaging faculty, students, alumni, regional companies, investors nationwide and, now, experienced executives as consultants.

With years of experience in information technology and health care Harvey first set to work helping to conceive a new business around a platform of software tools that guide health care workers through patient symptoms to diagnosis. The result is Agile Diagnosis, a start-up set to launch soon.

Harvey also contributed to launching UChicago Impact, LLC, which provides empirically based educational tools and support services developed at the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute and dedicated to improving urban public education.

“In both cases, my role was to work with exceptionally talented and creative faculty and staff within the University and at UChicagoTech to complement their deep domain expertise with my business insights and perspective,” Harvey says.

Diverse, accomplished career

Harvey has a rich and varied educational background, with an undergraduate degree from the College of Creative Studies of the University of California at Santa Barbara, a PhD in chemical physics from the University of Minnesota, a post-doctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, and an MBA in finance from Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania.

This broad knowledge base has made her well suited to consulting. With many stellar companies listed on her resume, she points to Wolfram Research, a company that produces mathematics software. There she helped create Wolfram Solutions, the company’s services arm, and negotiated the company’s largest business relationship ever with Microsoft.

Harvey also has executive experience. In 2000, for example, she became CEO of TenFold, a troubled enterprise software company, and turned it around. Prior to that, she was the executive vice president guiding Computer Sciences Corporation’s $400-million health care business vertical.

But Harvey finds her work at UChicagoTech more fulfilling, in some ways, than much of her business career. “It’s great to make a software company more profitable or make a business more efficient, but it’s much more gratifying to help improve patient diagnoses and urban public education,” she says. “The needs are so vital and the causes are so worthy.”

“The University of Chicago is an extraordinary academic and public resource,” she adds, “and UChicagoTech’s bold collaborative effort to translate discoveries into products and services has tremendous potential.”

Except for a break this September to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Nancy Harvey stands ready to help that effort. “Even after ten months as an Executive-in-Residence, the work is intriguing and the opportunity to be a part of it is tantalizing.”

By Greg Borzo

*UChicago Tech is now the Tech Commercialization team at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in recognition of a $50M gift from Michael Polsky in 2016 to expanded the Polsky Center in order to unify and enhance UChicago’s leading venture creation initiatives. Learn more about this transformational gift. >>

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