Chicago’s tech scene is growing in large part to the state’s universities, which are pumping out startups faster than any time in recent memory.
Illinois universities produced 285 startups in 2016, which is up 95% from the previous year. From 2012 to 2016, Illinois universities produced more than 800 startups, which is up nearly 100% compared to 2009–2013, according to the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition‘s annual report.
The ISTC’s latest Illinois Innovation Index shows that efforts by local colleges to increase entrepreneurial resources and innovation centers are paying dividends to the state’s startup activity.
Of the 804 Illinois university startups that were founded between 2012 and 2016, 78% remain active or have been acquired. And of those companies, 81%—roughly 500 companies—remain in Illinois. That number is the highest the ISTC has recorded since it began its annual survey in 2013.
“Since the ISTC University Entrepreneurship Survey began in 2013, Illinois universities have recorded steady growth in startup production,” the ISTC said in its report. “In 2016, that growth reached record heights. Through ever-increasing university resources—such as incubators and tech parks, startup funds, and innovative curriculum—students, faculty, staff, and alumni have access to more entrepreneurial resources than ever before.”
The ISTC highlighted several recent university initiatives that have helped spur startup creation. DePaul’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center opened a new space within its Chicago Loop campus in 2016; the Illinois Institute of Technology broke ground on the new Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship in 2016; Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business launched the Urban Social Benefit Incubator in 2016; the University of Chicago established a newly expanded Polsky Center, which provides incubation space and a suite of programming and resources to student entrepreneurs; and Northwestern launched The Garage, its hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation, in 2015.
But more than just space and programming, Illinois universities are providing some of the funding startups need to get off the ground. The University of Chicago recently launched a $20 million Innovation Fund and $25 million Startup Investment Program, Northwestern launched a $10 million N.XT fund and a $4 million NUseeds fund, and the University of Illinois’ IllinoisVENTURES fund has invested more than $50 million in startups since 2002.
The ISTC also examined the startup activity from Illinois graduates who have gone on to launch startups later in their career. From 2012 to 2016, alumni from Illinois universities founded more than 1,100 companies and raised more than $9 billion in capital.
Correction: IllinoisVENTURES fund has invested more than $50 million in startups since 2002, not $185 million.