The Innovators Connection


The first annual Innovators Connection Reception is on July 29th at Park Grill. This event will bring together innovators from both sides of the equation for a night of cocktails, mingling and idea sharing. Presented by Molex, this event will feature special guests Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago City Treasurer Stephanie Neely, as well as entertainment from Redmoon Theater. Tickets are complimentary. Register here!

What it is

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.

How it works

  • Large company participants express their desired needs to us relating to technologies, products, services, categories and industries that provide them value.


  • The Innovators Connection matches relevant Chicago Innovation Awards nominees and start-ups to large company participants.


  • Large companies review potential qualified start-ups, and we facilitate meetings between organizations.

Why participate

Large and small companies will benefit through new connections and the sharing of innovations that will increase company revenues and grow the economy.

Large companies gain access to pertinent new products, services, technologies and business models in their industries and adjacent industries. These new resources can sharpen the competitive advantages of large companies and add value to existing operations.

Start-ups gain access to large corporations, which can provide opportunities for new customers, licensing agreements, joint partnerships and acquisitions.

Our local focus aims to yield economic growth and job creation for the Chicago region.

“The spirit of innovation is thriving in Chicago. Big and small businesses have the potential to grow even faster through cooperation and interaction. The Innovators Connection will foster this interaction, helping to create jobs and economic opportunity for our city and its residents.”

-Mayor Rahm Emanuel


“The Innovators Connection will provide to the large companies a portfolio of startups that have created some type of economic value and done something that is innovative and very different.”

-Tom Kuczmarski, Co-founder, Chicago Innovation Awards

Our network

The Innovators Connection emerges from the web of relationships we have built with businesses of all types and sizes over the course of the first 12 years of the Chicago Innovation Awards. The Innovators Connection will use our database of proprietary data and personal relationships to help create new business opportunities throughout the region. After all, it is when the fruits of innovation flourish and grow within the Chicago region that our hometown economy will grow and people will prosper.

Large company participants

In mid-August, we will announce the needs and opportunity areas of each large company. Through the Innovators Connection, start-ups and small businesses from across the region can tell how they can meet these needs and provide solutions.


If you are interested in joining as a large company participant, contact Bryan Brochu at 312-988-1514 or at


The Innovators Connection Process

June – August

Complete a Chicago Innovation Awards nomination application, and fill out the two questions at the end relating to the Innovators Connection. All Chicago Innovation Awards nominees will be considered for the Innovators Connection.

September – October

Participating start-ups receive an overview of the large company participants’ needs and have a chance to pitch their products, services, and companies to the Innovators Connection for large company consideration.

December – February

Large companies review potential qualified start-ups, and are introduced to the start-ups should they meet their needs.
Throughout the year, we will contact start-ups and large company participants to understand changing capabilities and needs.


The Chicago Innovation Awards and Molex will host a partnered event to celebrate this new program.

Apply now to the Innovators Connection

Click here to answer a few simple questions and become a part of the Innovators Connection


If you have any questions regarding the Innovators Connection, please contact Bryan Brochu at 312-988-1514 or at