About Us

Vision Statement:

To make Chicago a recognized hub of innovation by igniting a new narrative for our region, strengthening its economic future and building the spirit of innovation throughout the community.

Our Core Principles:

  • We believe that innovation creates competitive advantage and directly builds the economy of the Chicago region.
  • We know that stimulating innovation is an on-going process.
  • We emphasize that innovation in all its forms, big company and small, for-profit and not-for-profit, high tech, low tech and no tech, across all industries and sectors is a powerful engine driving the region’s economy.
  • We stress that innovation can be taught and learned.
  • We know that innovation requires collaboration across a wide range of constituencies, including corporate leaders, start-up entrepreneurs, university leaders, faculty members, and students, investors, and public officials.



Story-telling is a powerful way to change and grow the mythology and narrative of the Chicago region. Each year, we celebrate the most innovative new products and services in our region, and share those stories with the world.


Innovation is not a “eureka moment.” It is a mindset, a process, and a culture. Since innovation can be taught and learned, we teach the principles of innovation as they apply to every workplace.


Collaboration and inclusivity are key to strengthening our innovation community. Through a year-long series of events, programs and activities, we build bridges to connect the corners of the regional economy. By linking capital, talent and business resources with organizations, we lay the groundwork for relationships that strengthen companies, grow the economy and create jobs.

Programs, Events and Activities

“It is Chicago-style innovation that will meet the challenges of the new economy, expanding opportunity in this great city and improving lives around the globe.”
- Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Celebrating Women in Innovation:

This partnered event with ARA and the Women’s Business Development Center features a panel of successful women entrepreneurs and business leaders discussing the possibilities that lay where equality and innovation intersect.

Past Winners Showcase:

Much can be gained from those who have tried, failed, learned from their mistakes and ultimately succeeded in launching ground-breaking new products and services. That is why we bring together our past winners to educate the public about the skills of innovation.

Chicago Innovation Summit:

This half-day event features discussion with media, capital and workforce experts to help Chicago’s innovators answer three important questions: How do I gain awareness in the market place? How do I gain access to sufficient capital? How do I retain and attract talent?

“The economic future of Illinois and America is centered on innovation and technology. These award winners have made tremendous achievements in their respective industries through their dedication and hard work, and its changing our state and region. Innovations like these can translate into jobs and economic success for years to come.”
- Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner

The Innovation Doctor Is In:

A small group of expert innovation “doctors” are put to the test when they are confronted by entrepreneurs seeking prescriptions for their business ailments – all before a live audience.

Nominee Reception:

The ability to forge relationships and exchange ideas with a diverse spectrum of people is vital for advancing any organization or region. Considered to be the premier networking event in Chicago’s innovation community, every type of organization is present at our Nominee Reception, as we celebrate all nominees who launched a new product or service in our region.

The Practical Innovator:

This day-long executive education course features leading faculty at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who teach participants how to create and lead a culture of innovation, and apply the practical skills of innovation in their workplaces.

Chicago Innovation Awards:

The largest annual celebration of innovation in the Midwest. Chicago’s business and civic leaders come together to honor the creative spirit of the Chicago region by recognizing the most innovative new products and services introduced in the market.

Up-and-Comer Awards Program:

“Innovation can be the key to success in a turbulent economy.”
- Tom Kuczmarski, Senior Partner
Kuczmarski & Associates

Start-up organizations provide the greatest source of new jobs to the U.S. economy. Each year, we elevate awareness of Chicago’s growing start-up community by honoring the most innovative new companies in our region, and helping these organizations connect with capital, mentors and business resources so that their innovations can be brought rapidly to scale.

Chicago Innovation Foundation Scholarship Competition:

The next generation of Chicago’s innovators are receiving their education in our region’s universities. To inspire these students to pursue career paths in Chicago and help them develop an innovation mindset, we run an annual Chicago Innovation Foundation Scholarship Competition in which top students are awarded financial scholarships and given the ability to connect with Chicago organizations that are seeking to retain local talent.

Ringing of the NASDAQ Bell:

To heighten awareness of Chicago on a more global stage, the winners of the Chicago Innovation Awards ring the NASDAQ bell in New York City to celebrate their achievements.

“This initiative has helped bring important benefits to the hardworking people of our city and we very much appreciate this recognition of our efforts”
- Mayor Richard M. Daley

Innovation Partnerships:

Innovation can occur in any community if empowered with the right knowledge and resources. That is why we partner with a variety of groups, such as the Chicago Urban League, to the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, and many others, to host events and discuss innovation topics that are important to under-served communities and specific audiences.

The Innovators Connection:

The Innovators Connection builds bridges and linkages between the region’s most innovative small businesses and large corporations located in and around Chicago. The Innovators Connection is funded by the Chicago Innovation Awards and Molex.

Organization Description

Chicago Innovation Awards LLC operates a year-round series of activities aimed at celebrating and supporting innovators in the Chicago region. The Chicago Innovation Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit that provides educational events and programs to people interested in learning about innovation and entrepreneurship. You can view the Chicago Innovation Foundation’s most recent 990 Form here.