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New $35M donation expands Polsky Center at U of C

University Trustee Michael Polsky's donation will bring his contributions to $50 million for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. | University of Chicago photo

A $35 million donation will be used to expand the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago.

The expanded Polsky Center will bring under one umbrella programs such as venture creation and education, technology commercialization and business incubation. The center also will create new programs such as fellowships to train founding chief executive officers and increased support for alumni entrepreneurs.

University Trustee Michael Polsky’s donation will bring his contributions to $50 million for the center. He endowed the center in 2002 and contributed to its expansion in 2012. Polsky, founder and CEO of Invenergy, earned his MBA at the university’s Booth School of Business in 1987.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship drive the American economy, and universities must play a major role in supporting the innovators whose ideas create new businesses and jobs,” Polsky said in a news release. “The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will take a fully integrated approach to supporting entrepreneurs and will position the University of Chicago to be a leader in driving innovation and new startups.”

The Chicago Innovation Exchange and UChicagoTech will be brought under the Polsky Center. The Chicago Innovation Exchange invests in early business development, while UChicagoTech helps turn ideas into businesses.

The new center is expected to be up and running in July under the leadership of John Flavin, who is executive director of the Chicago Innovation Exchange.

“Uniting our innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization efforts under a singular brand in one center will make it easier for faculty, student, alumni and community entrepreneurs to accelerate their ideas down a clearly defined pathway from concept to commercial validation,” Flavin said in a news release.

Polsky’s donation was announced during the university’s Innovation Fest, which runs through June 2. The contribution is part of the university’s Inquiry and Impact fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $4.5 billion by 2019.