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Students See Creative Power of State-of-the-Art Business Incubator

Published: March 15, 2017

Students See Creative Power of State-of-the-Art Business Incubator

Dima Elissa and Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch are flanked by Chicago Program students at the grand opening of mHUB.

Chicago Program students in the entrepreneurship seminar recently got a close look at an ambitious effort to spark a growth in local manufacturing at the grand opening of mHUB, an innovation center in the city’s West Loop area focused on product development.

The students attended the event at the invitation of a true insider who literally was sitting at the table when the idea for mHUB was born — their seminar teacher, Dima Elissa.

Elissa, who is CEO and founder of the biomedical design and consulting firm VisMed-3D, has been a member of the mHUB Board of Directors from its inception. She leads the Chicago Program’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Chicago seminar, which uses the city as a laboratory to explore the field of entrepreneurship and its application to a wide range of organizational settings.

A manufacturing incubator, mHUB is designed to support start-ups and build connections among city government, local manufacturers, university researchers, Chicago’s entrepreneurial community of makers and technologists, and investors interested in backing new businesses.

By using the facility’s 3-D printers and other tools, and leveraging the shared knowledge and other resources brought together under one roof, the incubator’s roughly 100 members can  more quickly and cheaply build and test prototypes and shave time off the time-to-market for their products.

Manufacturing was a major driver of Chicago’s economy before bottoming out in the Rust Belt era. Now, Elissa pointed out, the city is a rising tech center and mHUB is a prime example of a strategy for cities to adapt and stay on the cutting edge.

"mHUB shows how ideas come to life in the intersection of private and public initiatives, and the importance of [these partnerships] in staying ahead of the curve in skills, jobs, and creation of economic opportunity," she said.

The 63,000 square-foot facility boasts ten fabrication labs, including electronics, plastic fabrication, metals, textiles, and rapid prototyping, as well as a micro-factory for small production runs.

The grand opening was a taste of the excitement being created by innovation incubators across the city, several of which Elissa and her students have visited so far this semester. She plans to take the group back to mHUB for a closer look later in the term.

"I think it's really an incredible symbol of collaboration, diversity and inclusion, programming, and access to really amazing state-of-the-art tools that entrepreneurs normally wouldn’t have access to," she said. "mHUB is a leg of the stool that we can stand on and reach higher for innovation and opportunities to grow our community."

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