Business Incubation at Innovate Springfield

We’re diving deeper into the details of how we approach business incubation programming and supporting the more than 80+ entrepreneurs who call iSPI their work-home. Since opening its doors, Innovate Springfield has served a total of 167 small business starters. The business incubation program at Innovate Springfield currently supports 86 members, including 26 student members either between the ages of 18-23 or life-long learners currently enrolled in a higher education program, 15 of whom attend UIS. 53% of the members we serve are women, 35% are people of color, and 7% are veterans.


Supporting innovators and entrepreneurs across industries and stages of business requires strategic thinking about our resources, programming, and service offerings. We use ecosystem mapping to determine members’ current stage of business and to inform our program schedule based on their needs. Our service offerings include the opportunity to consult with expert advisors, one-on-one coaching, university resources, meaningful peer to peer networking, and a robust schedule of professional development events.


Since being transferred to the University of Illinois Springfield in 2018, Innovate Springfield has been able to license and run the CO.STARTERS program, a nine-week program that has been replicated around the country to guide entrepreneurs systematically through the business formation process. Running two cohorts per year, Innovate Springfield has graduated 23 starters from the CO.STARTERS program. For entrepreneurs who want to get in on the iSPI action, applications are live for the (virtual) Fall 2020 cohort which is scheduled to run September 2, 2020-October 28, 2020.

To support university students, and foster the entrepreneurial culture of our community, we’re excited to announce our first (virtual) 3-Day-Startup event at Innovate Springfield scheduled for September 18-20, 2020. 3 Day Startup is a 72-hour learning-by-doing campus program that teaches entrepreneurial skills to university students in an extreme hands-on environment. The program is free and is open to graduate and undergraduate students of all years, majors, and experience levels. Admissions are rolling, so students should apply ASAP to increase their chances of participating.

In addition to supporting university students and fostering growth for traditional small businesses, Innovate Springfield is drumming up the med tech and deep tech community by preparing innovators with the potential to commercialize their technologies to apply for SBIR and STTR grants through the Midwest I-Corps program. I-Corps serves as a hub for education, infrastructure, and research that engages academic scientists and engineers in innovation training programs designed to accelerate the transfer of cutting-edge research into commercial success. To date, Innovate Springfield has hosted two Midwest I-Corps programs and graduated more than ten teams. After graduating from the summer 2019 Midwest I-Corps cohort as part of the EnviroCat team, Natalie Kerr (UIS student), went on to win the Falling Walls Lab Illinois competition, earning her the title of Illinois Young Innovator of the Year. Kerr also won an all-expenses-paid trip to Berlin, Germany, to compete at the Falling Walls Lab global finale on November 8, 2019. Falling Walls Lab was presented by the Illinois Innovation Network, a group of 15 university-based hubs across the state (including UIS - Innovate Springfield) that aims to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research, and workforce development.


Our community space is open to iSPI members 24/7 and to our university affiliates during our regular operating hours, Monday-Friday from 8:30 AM-5:00 PM or by appointment. University faculty and staff members are encouraged to consider us their downtown home-base. Want to host a meeting or a class, have lunch downtown and drop in to get some work done? Look no further than iSPI! We can’t wait to see you.

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