Supported by joint funding from the University of Chicago and UIUC through the Inclusive Innovation initiative, the Innovate2Market program is designed to empower community inventors and innovators to explore the commercial opportunities and impact of their products and ideas. This five-week program will help innovators determine the market potential of their work.


Participants will:

  • Attend Five Educational Sessions: Each team is required to attend five educational sessions, which are held either in person at the Polsky Exchange in Hyde Park or virtually via Zoom. These sessions consist of lectures, team presentations, and visits from guest speakers. In addition, these sessions provide time to foster team discussion, group work, and networking with other cohort members, speakers, and mentors.
  • Conduct 20+ Interviews: In order to better understand the commercial potential of their ideas, teams will test their assumptions by conducting interviews with industry experts and potential customers. Outside of class, each team will conduct a minimum of 20 in-person or video interviews throughout the five week program. Participants are not expected to have any prior experience in conducting interviews. All participants will be trained and learn best practices for how to conduct stakeholder interviews as part of the Innovate2Market program.
  • Receive NSF Grant Funding: Each team is eligible to receive up to $1,000 in funding from the Inclusive Innovation Fund to support their customer discovery efforts, including travel for conferences, educational materials, prototyping supplies, and other tools for engaging in interviews.
  • Complete Homework Assignments: To prepare for each classroom session, participants are expected to complete video and reading assignments in order to become more familiar with entrepreneurial topics discussed in class. All required reading materials will be provided by the Polsky Exchange and will be distributed before the first session.


Each team is required to commit at least 5-8 hours per week to program activities.


Program Benefits

  • Expand your network and gain insight from industry stakeholders
  • Identify potential partners for future technical and business development
  • Receive individualized coaching
  • Prepare to apply for SBIR or other commercialization grants
  • Participate in follow-on programs and support from the Polsky Exchange


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