AWARE (Accelerating Women And underRepresented Entrepreneurs)

The AWARE (Accelerating Women And underRepresented Entrepreneurs) program provides entrepreneurship training, counseling, and networking resources with the goal to enhance and expand the reach of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign entrepreneurial ecosystem.



Those resources include:

  • a dedicated entrepreneur-in-residence familiar with the needs of those from underrepresented groups. To apply for time with our entrepreneur-in-residence, please fill out the form HERE

  • small proof-of-concept grants for teams

  • targeted mentorship, training, and networking opportunities

  • AWARE events can be found on the Research Park calendar

AWARE is being led by principal investigator Jed Taylor, director of operations at the Technology Entrepreneur Center, and co-PI Laura Weisskopf Bleill, associate director of the University of Illinois Research Park and EnterpriseWorks. 

The pilot program for AWARE was generously funded by a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation starting in late 2016 through early 2019. In the Fall of 2019, AWARE received a $50,000 Growth Accelerator Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration. AWARE was one of 60 accelerators and incubators to win the 2019 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. The funds allow EnterpriseWorks to continue and strengthen the program by providing resources and support to female-founded tech companies. Read more about the SBA Growth Accelerator Award here.


Proof of Concept Award

The AWARE program is seeking to aid women and underrepresented entrepreneurs through a proof-of-concept award. The AWARE proof-of-concept award provides funding to potential SBIR/STTR applicants to enable prototype development and accelerate the path toward commercialization. Awardees may receive up to $1,500 in proof-of-concept funds. The application consists of a brief questionnaire. The first round of Proof of Concept award applications is open now until Monday, December 2 at 5 pm. AWARE plans to hold another round of proof of concept awards in the spring. Learn more and apply here.


Apply Here


Read what people are saying about AWARE:


To join the AWARE mailing list, click here.