Polsky Center’s Innovation Fund Renamed to Honor George P. Shultz

George P. Shultz pictured at an event to honor him and celebrate the $10 million gift from Mary Tolan, MBA ’92 (XP-61), to name the George Shultz Innovation Fund.

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago announced that its UChicago Innovation Fund will be renamed the George Shultz Innovation Fund in recognition of the honorable George P. Shultz.

Shultz is widely known for his illustrious career in government and public service, having served in four different federal cabinet posts under President Richard Nixon and President Ronald Reagan. Throughout his professional career, he also made immense contributions in business, economics, and higher education—including the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In 1957, Shultz first joined the faculty of Chicago Booth as a professor of industrial relations and then later served as the school’s dean from 1962-69.

The decision to rename the Innovation Fund was the result of a $10 million gift to the Fund from University trustee and Booth alumna Mary A. Tolan, MBA ’92. Tolan, who is founder and co-managing director of health care private equity firm Chicago Pacific Founders, wanted to honor her longtime friend and mentor, George Shultz, through her gift.

“It is such a honor to have our fund associated with someone as distinguished as George Shultz—someone who has made such an impact in the world,” said Jason Pariso, director at the Polsky Center who oversees the Innovation Fund. “It’s fitting since the core mission of the fund is to help researchers turn their groundbreaking innovations into ventures and solutions that can create a lasting impact for humankind.”

Fueling innovation

Managed by the Polsky Center, the Shultz Innovation Fund invests in promising scientific and technology-based startups from the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Researchers, faculty, students and staff of these institutions are eligible to apply to one of the fund’s investment cycles, which are offered in both the academic Autumn and Spring quarters.

The investment process resembles that of a traditional venture capital fund. After evaluating all applications, the Polsky Center and the Fund’s advisory committee select up to five finalists to advance and participate in a rigorous 10-week due diligence process. During this time the Polsky Center provides key mentorship and matches each finalist team with a multi-disciplinary team of five or six UChicago student associates. These associates spend upwards of 500 hours analyzing the business opportunity from an investor’s perspective and providing strategic advice and recommendations into the investment process.

At the end of the 10 weeks, each finalist team pitches at a demo day-style finals event in front of the Innovation Fund Advisory Committee, an esteemed group of judges made up of investors, serial entrepreneurs, and industry experts. At this event, each team is competing for up to $250,000 in proof-of-concept capital from the Fund. This critical capital enables early-stage ventures and technologies to reach their next milestone in the commercialization process.

Breadth and diversity of innovation

Since its launch, the Polsky Center has invested more than $6 million in 58 startups and new technologies representing a variety of fields, industries, and researchers.

In the most recent funding cycle on May 31, 2018, five finalist teams—including BiomeSense, FORESEEaBILL, LiveBeat, Nanopattern Technologies, and SafeRate—presented their ventures in front of a 200-person audience at the Polsky Exchange. In the days following the finals, the Polsky Center announced a plan to invest up to $250,000 in BiomeSense and up to $200,000 in SafeRate.


BiomeSense is based on research from Jack Gilbert and Savas Tay. The device can detect particular kinds of bacteria in patients’ feces that could exponentially improve the data that is available to researchers and the efficacy of clinical trials. SafeRate is based on research from Chicago Booth economics professor Amir Sufi. SafeRate is introducing a new mortgage product for low down payment borrowers that reduces monthly payments in times of housing market distress.

“We see a lot variety in our portfolio investments,” explained Steve Lehmann, assistant director of the Shultz Innovation Fund. “For example, in just the last two years we’ve invested in possible treatments for cancer, food allergies, and infectious diseases, as well as products to help people vote more knowledgably, get an affordable mortgage, and access renewable energy.”

2018 fall cycle finals

Currently, the Polsky Center is managing a new cohort and overseeing the 2018 fall cycle of the Shultz Innovation Fund. Five teams have been selected, including Covira Surgical, a bowel prep drink to reduce the risk of serious postoperative infections; nuBorn Medical, a smart baby bottle system to diagnose feeding problems in preterm infants; Polaris Genomics, a technology that can be used to improve patient care and deliver upon the promise of personalized medicine; QMIS, a novel MRI software tool for prostate cancer detection that creates a heat map of prostate cancer and its severity; and UChicago Solutions, a new edition of the award-winning University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) secondary mathematics curriculum.

All members of the UChicago community as well as business leaders, corporate partners, and investors are invited to attend the Shultz Innovation Fund Finals, which will be hosted by the Polsky Center on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 starting at 8:30 a.m.

To register, please visit the Innovation Fund finals online registration page.

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