Interview with Mark Harris of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition

“When you work with a corporation, you need to have a high level champion within the company.” – Mark Harris

Mark Harris, President & CEO of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC), shares his insight on how to bring the startup community and Fortune 500 companies together. Initiated by ISTC, Corporate Startup Challenge acMark Harris Awardsts as an intermediary and matchmaker between those two communities.

Mark describes the first step of the Corporate Start Challenge as the discovery meeting. During this meeting, ISTC and senior team members representing the corporation discuss innovation needs of the company. Once innovation needs are identified, ISTC reaches out to almost 50 partner organizations (e.g., universities, incubators, accelerators, other economic development organizations) to identify a portfolio of startups that can address the specific innovation needs of the company. After due diligence is completed, those companies present at a demo day.

Mark concludes by sharing three great pieces of advice for economic development organizations looking to align their region’s startups with industry leaders:

  • Corporations need to view working with startups as a business decision, not charity;
  • There must be connectivity within the innovation ecosystem of the state/regions with entrepreneurial support organizations willing to work together; and,
  • There must be champions within the corporations who can make decisions and influence others to engage with startups.

ISTC logoAbout the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition’s Corporate StartUp Challenge

The Illinois Corporate-Startup Challenge is a bridge between the major corporations that serve as the backbone of Illinois’ economy and the startup businesses expected to power it through the 21st century. Launched in 2013 with a pilot group of five corporations, the Illinois Corporate-Startup Challenge assembles a class of Fortune 1000 corporations on a semiannual basis and pairs them with startup companies that address their innovation needs through a highly curated matchmaking process. The Illinois Corporate-Startup Challenge is administered by the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, a member-driven non-profit created by he state of Illinois to grow the state’s innovation economy. The vision of the program is to recruit 30 Illinois Fortune 1000 corporations to participate in the program over three years and self-fund through corporate sponsorship. Learn more…

About the Excellence in TBED awards

The SSTI Excellence in TBED awards recognize exceptional achievement in addressing elements that have been found in successful tech-based economies. These include a research base that generates new knowledge, mechanisms for transferring knowledge into the marketplace, an entrepreneurial culture, sources of risk capital, and a technically skilled workforce. For more information visit:

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