By Nadia Beidas
The Lewis University Innovation Hub is currently reviewing the applications of those interested in utilizing the hub to build their business plan.
Ryan Butt, Dean of the College of Business and Director of the Innovation Hub, said the hub is a regional business incubator, a result of a joint partnership with Lewis University and the Des Plaines River Valley Enterprise, composed of the Village of Romeoville, Joliet, Lockport, Rockdale and Will County.
The hub is “an opportunity to be a catalyst for the community,” Butt said. “It is an intersection between Lewis students and faculty expertise connected with the larger communities to create new products with services to benefit not only our community, but beyond.”
The Innovation Hub is open to different types of clients, Butt said, such as clients who have an idea, but do not have the resources to fully develop the idea. These clients can be assisted by faculty and students, he said. Another client could be someone with a homemade invention or product, but is unsure how to make the idea successful. For example, if someone has a product, such as homemade salsa, and is unsure how to scale the business and make the product available in places such as Jewel Osco, then the person could speak with experts and utilize the resources at the Innovation Hub.
In addition to the Innovation Hub work space, a client potentially could also want to utilize other Lewis resources, including the Maker Lab, which has 3D printing capabilities, Butt said. Clients would also have access to coaching by business experts, Lewis faculty.
“We take people and give them skills they need to be successful in business,” Butt said. He added, “We have the opportunity for people who don’t have resources to go to 1871 [business incubator] in Chicago. We can partner with them and give them our expertise.” He added that potential clients do not have to have a background in business to utilize the innovation hub.
Lewis University was presented with the $75,000 grant back in November. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker attended and spoke at the ceremony. Butt said Pritzker was highly interested and excited about the Innovation Hub. Pritzker is also the founder of 1871 business incubator in Chicago.
The pricing for these services is still being determined, but there will be three tiers of pricing. The lower tier will be for the association part, to have access to consulting and lab space, Butt said. The middle and higher tiers will have permanent space and additional resources.
Students would also have the opportunity to work with clients, Butt said. An innovation lounge is available for students and clients to meet each other, and formulate a plan to work together.
One of the ways students can prepare is to take part in the Business Plan Competition, Butt said. There are cash prizes up to $25,000 total to be distributed. The top winner also receives free space in the innovation hub for one year. For more information visit https://www.lewisu.edu/academics/cob/lsc/business-competition.htm.
The innovation hub is also involved with campus events, Butt said. One is a lecture with Carol Lavin Bernick, who is the CEO of Polished Nickel Capital Management, which is a company in charge of diversified investments as well as owned operating companies in professional sports and retail. The lecture will be held at the Convocation Hall in St. Charles Borromeo from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on March 17.
The innovation hub is also sponsoring the Hackathon/Makeathon event for CaMS department [Computer and Mathematical Sciences] on April 18 as well as a Datathon later in the semester.
For more on events, please visit https://hub.lewisu.edu/events. Additionally, the Romeoville Chamber of Commerce also hosts events posted there.
Butt said the innovation hub is following the legacy of St. John Baptiste de La Salle, who was an innovator, taught the poor and user vernacular language in his teachings for the poor to become educated.
Butt said the overall experience of the innovation hub has been very positive. He “sees the energy and the excitement surrounding the students, the faculty who are interested in being a part of it, and the local community.”
Dr. Ray Klump, Associate Dean of the College of Aviation, Science and Technology and Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said, “In Computer Science and Computer Engineering, there is so much room to innovate. I think the Innovation Hub could be a great space for our students to make their ideas a reality.”