AWARE (Accelerating Women And underRepresented Entrepreneurs)

The AWARE (Accelerating Women And underRepresented Entrepreneurs) program provides entrepreneurship training, counseling, and networking resources with the goal to enhance and expand the reach of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign entrepreneurial ecosystem.



Those resources include:

  • a dedicated entrepreneur-in-residence familiar with the needs of those from underrepresented groups. To apply for time with our entrepreneur-in-residence, please fill out the form HERE

  • small proof-of-concept grants for teams

  • targeted mentorship, training, and networking opportunities

  • AWARE events can be found on the Research Park calendar

AWARE is led by principal investigator Jed Taylor, director of operations at the Technology Entrepreneur Center, and co-PI Laura Weisskopf Bleill, associate director of the University of Illinois Research Park and EnterpriseWorks. 

The pilot program for AWARE was generously funded by a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation starting in late 2016 through early 2019. In the Fall of 2019, AWARE received a $50,000 Growth Accelerator Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration. AWARE was one of 60 accelerators and incubators to win the 2019 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. The funds allow EnterpriseWorks to continue and strengthen the program by providing resources and support to female-founded tech companies. Read more about the SBA Growth Accelerator Award here.



AWARE Spring Workshop Series

The AWARE program is hosting a four-part workshop series to introduce researchers to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Participants will explore the commercialization process, engage with investment experts, and discover local resources for entrepreneurs. Each workshop is 12-1 pm, and lunch is provided. Locations vary, so please check our calendar for the latest information on each workshop. Registration is not necessary, but an RSVP is encouraged to help us prepare.


Workshop One: Visioning Impact from Research

This workshop introduces the commercialization process and features successful women entrepreneurs at Illinois. Participants explore their own research programs, discuss potential ideas for commercialization and reflect upon the benefits and challenges of taking ideas to market.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | Illini Union: Room 407


Workshop Two: Learning the Landscape

This workshop introduces the entrepreneurship ecosystem at UIUC. Participants will learn of the entrepreneurial resources available within our community and engage with leaders within the ecosystem.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | Illini Union: Room 407


Workshop Three: Building a Team

Participants will learn the importance of building an effective team to bring their innovation to market. They will identify their role in the process and discover they don’t have to start a company or be the CEO.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | EnterpriseWorks: Room 130


Workshop Four: Understanding the Funding Lifecycle

Participants will engage with experts from potential funding sources (public and private) to understand the available options that are most appropriate at each stage. (SBIR, Angel, Venture Capital etc.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020 | Illini Union: Room 314B




Proof of Concept Award

The AWARE program is seeking to aid women and underrepresented entrepreneurs through a proof-of-concept award. The AWARE proof-of-concept award provides funding to potential SBIR/STTR applicants to enable prototype development and accelerate the path toward commercialization. Awardees may receive up to $1,500 in proof-of-concept funds. The application consists of a brief questionnaire. The first round of Proof of Concept award applications is open now closed. AWARE plans to hold another round of proof of concept awards in the spring of 2020. Please check back here for updates on future funding opportunities.



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To join the AWARE mailing list, click here.