Samir Mayekar Named Managing Director of Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Samir Mayekar, an accomplished leader with a track record of driving innovation and impact across the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, has been named managing director of the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, effective Nov. 6, 2023.

As head of the Polsky Center, Mayekar will play a pivotal role in advancing UChicago’s ambitious priorities in innovation, technology commercialization, and entrepreneurship. He will foster connections across the University, the city of Chicago, the region, and the world that will enable the Polsky Center to accelerate the commercialization of critical technologies.

Most recently, Mayekar served as deputy mayor for the city of Chicago, where he focused on economic and neighborhood development. He was a driving force behind initiatives such as the city’s INVEST South/West initiative, which marshaled resources from across city departments, community organizations, and corporate and philanthropic partners to support commercial corridors across several South and West Side neighborhoods.

“Samir brings a marvelous energy to building partnerships and is creative and thoughtful in his approach to new business opportunities,” said President Paul Alivisatos. “The University and the Polsky Center will benefit from his talent, experience, and commitment.”

Mayekar’s work in both high-tech innovation and urban economic development is well-matched to the Polsky Center’s goals and mission, including the advancement of a wide range of technologies — from clean energy and life sciences to quantum, information sciences, and data science.

“The Polsky Center is committed to solving humanity’s most significant problems through breakthrough innovation,” said Juan de Pablo, executive vice president for Science, Innovation, National Laboratories and Global Initiatives and the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering. “I am confident that Samir will build on the accomplishments of the Polsky Center in technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and innovation, and elevate our efforts to help drive economic development on the South Side through partnerships that bolster UChicago and our city’s upward trajectory as hubs of world-class innovation.”

“Samir has demonstrated throughout his career that he is a leader and a builder of organizations and initiatives in which ideas can grow and flourish,” said Madhav V. Rajan, dean of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting. “We look forward to working with him to further promote innovation and collaboration and advance the Polsky Center’s ambitious goals.”

Prior to working for the city of Chicago, Mayekar served in the Obama administration, where he was part of the White House’s national security team and the executive staff at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

Mayekar also cofounded and served as CEO of NanoGraf Corporation, a global manufacturer of advanced materials for the lithium-ion battery industry that has raised over $100 million in funding and was spun out of Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University.

“I am excited to bring my civic, corporate, and entrepreneurial experience to enhance the Polsky Center’s role as a platform to both support local economic development on the South Side and advance the commercialization of globally needed technologies to solve critical issues — from climate change to public health and responsible artificial intelligence.”

— Samir Mayekar

He earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA from Northwestern, where he served as a trustee. Mayekar is active in the Chicago civic community, serving on the boards of the Metropolitan Pier and Exhibition Authority, Lyric Opera, and other organizations. He is also a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and is an alum of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship and the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

// The Polsky Center was established in 1998 through Chicago Booth to provide training and venture support for students pursuing opportunities in entrepreneurship. It has since grown to include the Polsky Exchange, which assists local business owners with financial and other advisory services; and the recently launched Deep Tech Ventures initiative, which offers sector-specific accelerators to bring world-changing technologies to market. The Polsky Center is also home to the University’s technology commercialization office.

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