In 2002, Tom Kuczmarski and Dan Miller, editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, came together to celebrate the Midwest as an innovation hub. It started with one event – the Chicago Innovation Awards – honoring 10 companies in different sectors. In the 16 years since that inaugural class, the Chicago Innovation has grown into an incredible, year-long series of events and programs aimed at educating, connecting, and celebrating innovators in Chicago.
Just as recognizing individuals within one organization is an important part of its innovative culture, so too is applauding the achievements of those companies within our community at large. The Chicago Innovation Awards not only recognize nominees and winners, but also provide valuable connections through business networking and development opportunities and teach best innovation practices through mentoring, scholarships, panel discussions, and education courses.
Chicago Innovation has grown to support innovative education for Chicago’s adults and children. Adults have the opportunity to come to our monthly series of educational events, including panelists and speakers discussing topics ranging from how technology gets personal, to the future of food innovation. Children learn our innovation process through the Chicago Student Invention Convention, where kids from K-8th grade compete to invent new products that solve problems in their lives.
Chicago Innovation has fostered a community of innovators who come to our monthly events and are involved in our year-round programs. From the Women Mentoring Co-op, which has grown from 20 mentor-mentee pairs to over 80 this year, to the Corporate-Startup Matchmaking Program, which provides needs-based connection-making between large corporations and startups within Chicago, Chicago Innovation continues to build meaningful relationships among innovators in Chicago to support the economic growth of the region.
Innovation leads to the development of new products, services, and business models that can change economies of all sizes. Past Chicago Innovation Awards winners and nominees have contributed billions in revenue to the Midwest economy and created thousands of new job opportunities. Several have partnered with or even been purchased by national and global organizations because of their innovative offerings and potential to make an even bigger impact in their sectors.
These nominees and our affiliated vendors span across all industries and sectors. There is no participant too big or too small to celebrate Chicago’s innovation ecosystem. Whether your company is a big brand or a startup, for-profit or not-for-profit, high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech, we would love to hear from you.