University start-ups on the rise

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ILLINOIS — The future of innovation is looking brighter than ever, despite decreased state funds. A recent study shows the number of Illinois university start-ups have surged to a record high.

Students say the support they have on campuses throughout the state inspires them everyday.

2016 marked the highest number of university start-ups since 2012. It’s nearly double the number of previous years.

“There’s very much a concept of ‘how do we think about the we and not just me,’ so, I’m definitely seeing that trend.”

Universities around the state have become incubators for creative and innovative student ideas.

Julie Shields is the director of the Center of Entrepreneurship at Millikin University. She believes the increase is due to more students wanting to make changes in the world we see today.

“It’s not always a social entrepreneurship venture, but a lot o times, it’s like a socially responsible entrepreneurship venture and something to try to alleviate a problem.”

“The stuff we do, we really believe that it could have a massive environmental impact, societal impact and economical impact.”

“This isn’t just a way to make money. It’s like a way to help the future.”

Estefano is a sophomore and also the CEO of clean energy tech company Blu Solar. She says coming to college and collaborating with like-minded students has helped him flourish.

“The most valuable thing mentors around here  have given me is just that company and support to keep working.”

Senior Aric Hopp is launching a coffee shop in downtown Decatur. He says the innovative culture on campus motivates him to create.

“Whatever you do, you have people around you that are wiling to put in that extra step. It does help, especially with productivity.”

Despite the increase in start-ups, the school’s director says women make up a small fraction of her students. She hopes to see an increase in that trend as well.

More than 800 total start-ups have been created in the past five years. 76% of them are still up-and-running. Most stayed in Illinois and raised $628 million in funding.

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