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WE ARE MAKING NOISE for the Prairie Tech & STEAM Expo event happening THIS WEEK at the 2021 Illinois State Fair. The STEAM Expo will run Wednesday, August 18 - Sunday, August 22, 2021, from 10 AM - 7 PM at the Orr Building on the State Fairgrounds.

The expo will open on the morning of the 18th, and it's going to be a big day because a little later in the afternoon [3 PM to be exact] we're celebrating advances in research, technology commercialization, and education across 12 public universities and 15 innovation hubs throughout Illinois via the Illinois Innovation Awards! Did we mention WE ARE MAKING NOISE?!
Prepare yourselves for all the mini donuts, corn dogs, lemon shake-ups, and startup activities you can handle, and mark your calendars for:
  • The Illinois Innovation Awards presented by the Illinois Innovation Network on Wednesday, August 18 at 3 PM. 
  • The capstone presentation of our Inaugural Summer Fellowship Program on Thursday, August 19 at 1 PM.
About the Illinois Innovation Awards.

The Statewide Illinois Innovation Awards presented by the Illinois Innovation Network will recognize advances in:
  • computing and data;
  • food and agriculture;
  • environment and water;
  • health and wellness; and
  • open student category.
The Illinois Innovation Network is a group of public universities and community colleges that work together to improve the state's economy through an inclusive approach to innovation, research, and education. The IIN works with businesses, governmental agencies, and community groups to grow Illinois' workforce, bring new technologies to market faster, and utilize research to make better decisions through an equity approach for our state. 
About the Summer Fellowship.

The Summer Fellowship Program is a collaborative partnership between The Community Foundation for the Land of LincolnThe University of Illinois Springfield College of Business and ManagementiVENTURED; and Innovate Springfield with the aim of attracting talent back to the area.

We curated an all-star line-up of guest speakers to make this the most valuable, applicable, and fun experiential learning opportunity around. High-energy mention to our hosts and fellows for committing their time and brainpower to the program.

S/O to the Hosts & Fellows:

In addition to the Innovation Awards and Summer Fellowship Capstone presentation, Innovate Springfield will have booth space throughout the Prairie Tech and STEAM Expo event and we'd LOVE to see you! 

If you can't make it to the expo, don't stress. We will be there documenting every single second of the action so we can report back with a major highlight reel just for you.

We're taking time out to honor the contributions of Black-owned businesses across the state, now, always, and especially throughout the month of August in celebration of Black Business Month. We're joining DCEO and the State of Illinois in inviting all Illinoisans to “Shop Black-owned Business Saturdays,” and to share opportunities for the community to access the upcoming “Back to Business” recovery assistance program.

While Illinois has over 132,000 Black-owned businesses, comprising 11 percent of all Illinois businesses, these business owners have historically experienced barriers in accessing capital and other key business resources. As part of this month-long celebration, DCEO and several partner organizations are hosting a series of free virtual events, exploring resources available to support black-owned businesses in navigating the impacts of the pandemic. 

Check it out, and scope additional information and registration details on the DCEO website Did we mention we're all in with DCEO in encouraging Illinoisans to Shop Black-owned Businesses?! 
Our friends at the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce have made it super easy for everyone to Shop Black-Owned Businesses with their 217 Black Business Directory. The directory is organized by industry so you're sure to find whatever you're looking for, from exploring childcare options, and consulting services, to finding new places to go out to eat or pamper yourself.
We're eliminating barriers and creating opportunities for everyone to participate in the culture of entrepreneurship. Join us!

Click HERE to see upcoming learning opportunities
Click HERE to see community updates 
Click HERE to see partner events


Welcome to #iSPILyfe, where we're learning every day and growing every day and we know it. Join us!
ICYMI // Check out Telling Your Story with Scott Faingold on the iSPI YouTube Channel! It's real good.

On August 11, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced the $250 million Back to Business (B2B) grant program to support the continued recovery of small businesses across Illinois.
This program will offer small businesses access to funds that can help offset losses due to COVID-19, bring back workers, and take continued steps to rebuild amid the fallout from the pandemic. The program will open on August 18, 2021. While many business types and industries may apply, the following industries will be given priority status for grants:
  • restaurants and taverns;
  • hotels;
  • arts businesses and organizations;
  • businesses located within Disproportionately Impacted Areas (DIAs).
Two main eligibility requirements include that the business must have been in operation during or before December 2019, and must have experienced a loss in revenue of at least $5,000 in 2020 due to economic disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The online application portal will allow for documents to be scanned and uploaded for processing. The required documentation includes the following:

  • Business owner ID (ITIN business owners eligible);
  • Business’s 2019 and 2020 Federal tax returns;
  • Two (2) business bank statements – one from the period April through December 2020, and the most recent statement.
More information about this program and links to Community Navigators that can assist with the program can be found on the DCEO website here.
Upcoming B2B Informational Webinars:

We host twice-monthly appointments for office hours with our expert advisors. Innovate Springfield members can book appointments directly through our Google Calendar:
If you're feeling stuck and want some extra support:
We are here for you!


At Innovate Springfield community is what it’s all about! It’s the most collaborative, supportive, and authentic environment we’ve ever worked in. The real magic is in the people who call iSPI their work-home and the passion and value that they bring to our community.

From photography to graphic design, Innovate Springfield member and CO.STARTERS graduate Patrick Russell has cultivated an entrepreneurial spirit and uses his creativity at his clothing store Reverie Apparel. You need to stop what you're doing and listen to his NPR Illinois Community Voices Interview right now!

Innovate Springfield CO.STARTERS Graduate, Dan Frachey is the owner and chief “story gatherer” of a newly launched concept called Legacy Weavers Video
Legacy Weavers Video offers a highly personalized way of helping you to craft your story as a legacy gift to others.

Legacy Weavers Video will take the time to help guide you through the process of selecting what it is you want to say and to whom you wish to share it. Visit their beautiful website and watch a collection of micro-stories from fellow Illinoisans. 

Meet Innovate Springfield Summer Fellow Miles Wilson. Miles is a Springfield native studying computer science at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and he hopes to become an Artificial Intelligence Engineer/Developer upon graduation. 
In his role as a Summer Fellow at Innovate Springfield, Miles has supported SmashToast. SmashToast is dedicated to developing hardware and software that provides efficiency to everyday processes and is best known for its PUCK device, a Patented Wireless Bluetooth Low-Energy to Infrared Bridge.

In words everyone can understand, the PUCK turns your smartphone into a wireless remote for all of your devices. Whoa! 

We asked Miles what he loves most about Springfield, and you need to read this:
"I have lived here my entire life, and in doing so I have been given so many great opportunities and connections. The people I have met in this town are the greatest and some of the most genuine people you could ask for. Along with the people, I have been given so many opportunities to reach my full potential simply because I live here."
It's a TV spot and we're on it!
Check out UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership Executive Director, Molly Lamb and UIS Director of Economic Development and Innovation, Bruce Sommer discussing Innovate Springfield's Business Incubation and Social Innovation programs.
Thanks for being here with us, for supporting our work, and the members that we serve at Innovate Springfield!
Copyright © 2021 Innovate Springfield, All rights reserved.

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