Federal funding comes to boost Chicago’s tech economy


The federal agency gave more than $36 million in grants to nonprofits, colleges and universities, state government agencies and entrepreneurship-focused organizations across the country that accelerate technology entrepreneurship.

At the Discovery Partners Institute, the funding will be used to support 12 budding “deep-tech” businesses in the organization’s program. There were nine teams in last year’s cohort.

Each business, or “team,” is led by U of I faculty, but team members include faculty from other local institutions as well. The funding will help DPI develop a commercialization pipeline for each team. DPI gives each team a $125,000 grant.

Team projects include a tool to better detect Type 2 Diabetes using electronic health records and software that identifies and labels misinformation on social media.

DPI, which received $23.5 million in state funding last year, is building a 500,000-square-foot headquarters in the 78 development at Roosevelt Road and the Chicago River. Currently, DPI’s offices are located in the Loop.

“We’re trying to be a nexus point for innovation,” said Venkat Venkatakrishnan, the director of research at DPI and a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “What we’re doing at DPI is giving the teams all of the tools and the support they need for them to succeed, whether it is giving them seed funding or giving them the connections to DPI’s network of industry partners, nonprofits and government agencies.”

Meanwhile at Matter, funding from the EDA will be used to expand its Venture Acceleration program, which supports health care startups and businesses design, build and deploy products. About 60 companies are currently in the program, and the new funding will allow Matter to add an additional 150. The grant will also pay for digitizing and automating some of its education resources.

“There’s a big chunk of it that can be automated and can save our team’s time for the activities that they’re best equipped to do,” said Matter CEO Steve Collens. “It will allow us to better serve more entrepreneurs.”

Matter, which opened in 2015, says the program has the potential to generate more than $75 million in revenue and create more than 3,000 jobs in the next three years.

Besides its Venture Acceleration program, Matter provides workspace for its 250 members at its offices in the Merchandise Mart, who each pay monthly dues. Members include NowPow, a local community health organization that was recently sold to New York-based Unite Us.

Matter also sells tech consulting services to larger health care businesses, like OSF Healthcare, the American Medical Association and Abbvie.

This isn’t the first time Matter received funding from the EDA. Earlier this year, Matter was one of three Chicago startup incubators that received a joint $2.8 million from the EDA to revitalize budding businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. mHub, a local incubator for hardware startups, and 1871, Chicago’s original startup hub, were also recipients.

“Investing in scalable startups and creating access to capital will yield more economic opportunities and support the next generation of industry-leading companies,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo in a statement. “This is the type of vital work that President Biden’s build back better agenda promises to continue to support.”



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