The AWARE (Accelerating Women And underRepresented Entrepreneurs) program is a collaboration among the College of Engineering, the Office of Technology Management, and the EnterpriseWorks incubator at the University of Illinois Research Park. The program exists to support entrepreneurship training, counseling, and networking.
AWARE offers resources and an enhanced infrastructure that make the current entrepreneurial ecosystem more accessible to all. Those resources include:
- a dedicated entrepreneur-in-residence familiar with the needs of those from underrepresented groups.
- small proof-of-concept grants for teams
- targeted mentorship, training, and networking opportunities
- AWARE events found on the Research Park calendar
The AWARE is led by principal investigator Jed Taylor, director of operations at the Technology Entrepreneur Center, and co-PI Laura Bleill, director of the communications and external engagement at the Research Park and EnterpriseWorks.
For more information, please contact Laura Bleill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 second round of Proof of Concept award applications is now closed. Stay tuned for future award opportunities.
AWARE Workshop Series
The AWARE program is hosts a four-part workshop series to introduce researchers to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Participants explore the commercialization process, engage with investment experts, and discover local resources for entrepreneurs. The spring workshop series is now complete. Please check our calendar for upcoming workshops and events.
Workshop One: Visioning Impact from Research
This workshop introduces the commercialization process and features successful women entrepreneurs at Illinois. Participants explore their own research programs, discuss potential ideas for commercialization and reflect upon the benefits and challenges of taking ideas to market.
Workshop Two: Learning the Landscape
This workshop introduces the entrepreneurship ecosystem at UIUC. Participants will learn of the entrepreneurial resources available within our community and engage with leaders within the ecosystem.
Workshop Three: Building a Team
Participants will learn the importance of building an effective team to bring their innovation to market. They will identify their role in the process and discover they don’t have to start a company or be the CEO.
Workshop Four: Understanding the Funding Lifecycle
Participants will engage with experts from potential funding sources (public and private) to understand the available options that are most appropriate at each stage. (SBIR, Angel, Venture Capital etc.)
History of AWARE
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.
AWARE in the News
Read what the University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering wrote here.
Karin is our Entrepreneur-in-Residence dedicated to the AWARE program.