Michael Polsky (‘87) Donates $35 Million for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The expansion will unify the Polsky Center, the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) and UChicagoTech.

By Kaitlyn Akin

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will be expanding in response to a $35 million gift from the Center’s namesake and CEO of Invenergy, Michael Polsky (M.B.A. ’87). The expansion will unify the current Polsky Center with the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) on East 53rd Street and UChicagoTech.

“This gift will create new ways for individuals to turn their ideas into solutions in fields as diverse as science, engineering, business, policy, and education,” President Zimmer said in a CIE e-mail. “We are grateful to Michael Polsky for his generosity and continued support of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University.”

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation was founded in 1998 and was later endowed and named by Polsky himself in 2002. The center, which describes itself as a “venture creation engine,” focuses on providing students with workshops and resources to begin working toward creating start-ups. It also runs the New Venture Challenge, an annual competition in which students from the Chicago Booth School of Business compete to have their startup ideas funded.

This is Polsky’s third major donation to the organization, bringing his total contribution to $50 million. Polsky is a graduate of Booth, and according to the Polsky Center’s website, he thanks the school for teaching him to be a “complete package as an entrepreneur.”

The goal of the unification of the organizations is to provide a more streamlined process for innovators to turn ideas into reality. “Where a startup or entrepreneur may have first gone to the Polsky Center for resources and then the CIE, they will now have one place and hub to help them on their entrepreneurial journey,” current CIE president Jeremy Flavin said. He will be the Associate Vice President of the new Polsky Center when it begins operations in July. Former Provost Eric D. Isaacs will serve as the University’s Executive Vice President for Research, Innovation, and National Laboratories.

As part of the Polsky Center, UChicagoTech and the CIE will continue to provide their usual services, although the CIE will be rebranded in Polsky’s honor as the Polsky Innovation Exchange (PIE). Currently, the CIE houses the “Fab Lab”, a collection of machines for creating physical products and spaces where teams can meet and collaborate. UChicagoTech is a group that works alongside University researchers to conduct research into marketable products.