The New Polsky Center Brings Innovation at UChicago Under One Brand

University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has an expanded mission—and a new look.

Following a $35 million donation from Invenergy CEO Michael Polsky this summer (bringing his total donations to Polsky to $50 million), Booth’s Polsky Center announced it would become an umbrella organization for all entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago. That included bringing UChicago Tech (the school’s center for tech transfer and commercialization) and the Chicago Innovation Exchange (the 53rd street community-focused innovation hub) under the Polsky brand.

It was an undertaking that not only required massive organizational restructuring, but a bit of soul searching: How do you represent the scope of innovation at the university, while appealing to entrepreneurship-minded prospective students and researchers with more options for innovation-oriented universities than ever before?

The Polsky Center recently unveiled their take with a new logo and branding. The new logo features Polsky (written in Gotham, the university’s official font) with an “O” made of tilted, multicolored lines. The lines are tilted to indicate acceleration, and the three colors (blue, bright red, and maroon) represent the three organizations (UChicago Tech, Polsky Center and Chicago Innovation Exchange) coming together.  Highlighting the “O” is also meant to symbolize the greater Chicago community UChicago serves.

“We needed something that wasn’t just for that Booth student to get his or her idea to the marketplace, but that undergrad at the College or the faculty and researchers and postdocs who are working on cancer research at the Biological Science campus and Medical Center,” said Micheline Pergande, director of marketing and communications at Polsky.

They tapped local design firm Studio Blue, who’s also worked with University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and the School of the Art Institute. To be sure to appeal to those who are interested in entrepreneurship, but removed from the Silicon Valley startup mentality, they stayed away from a “grungy” and “messy” aesthetic, often used to indicate fast-paced growth.

“It was important for us to come out with something that was fresh, new, sophisticated, yet fun, and not a look that was typical in the startup space,” said Pergande. “We wanted something that could work well with all those audiences.”

The new look, however, just scratches the surface of changes Polsky underwent over the summer:

  • Starr Marcello is now the executive director of the Polsky Center
  • John Flavin is now the associate vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at UChicago
  • The new organization now encompasses over 45 employees, compared to 10 before the consolidation.
  • The Chicago Innovation Exchange will now be called the Polsky Exchange
  • There’s a new shuttle route connecting the main Hyde Park Campus to the 53rd street Polsky Exchange

They’re already running pilots of a “CEO academy” program that trains young leaders to be executives of early stage companies. At a recent Polsky event, Flavin emphasized that though the new Polsky Center is focused on entrepreneurship at UChicago, it’s for the benefit of the city, and ecosystem, at large.

“Our campus is the entire city of Chicago, it’s the state of Illinois, it’s the region and it’s the world,” he said. “We believe there is no better way to improve Chicago than by helping people, entrepreneurs grow their companies. And we intend, here at the Polsky Center, to start and grow many more of them in the coming years.”


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