Chicago Tribune: Chicago health tech hub accepting applications, names leaders

By Ellen Jean Hirst, Tribune reporter 8/12/14

Applications to claim space in a soon-to-open health tech hub in downtown Chicago opened on Tuesday.
The 25,000-square-foot co-working space for medical device, biopharma and information technology startups called Matter is expected to open in early 2015 next to Chicago’s 2-year-old digital tech incubator 1871 on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart. It’s funded by the state with a $2.5 million grant and a $1.5 million loan, which Matter plans to leverage to obtain additional funding from businesses.

Also on Tuesday, the first executive members for Matter, a not-for-profit organization, were announced. Steven Collens, who helped launch 1871 and previously spent a decade with Abbott Laboratories doing product marketing and handling public affairs, was named chief executive officer. Patrick Flavin, an entrepreneur and corporate lawyer with experience in the health care industry, was named executive director of partnerships.

Applications for prospective members are at Membership rates start at $150 per month, granting the young companies access to a mentor network, classes and events geared toward entrepreneurs.

“One thing we know about innovators is they thrive in dense environments. Their odds of success go up when they can connect with each other,” Collens said. “And what’s been missing here in this (health technology) community is a common meeting ground, the place where all the members of the health technology ecosystem can come together, where they can collide.”

Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the venture in the high-growth field of medical and health care technology will spark innovation and create jobs in the city and state.

“Matter will be for health sciences what 1871 has been for the digital economy in Chicago,” Emanuel said at a press conference Tuesday. He said the space is meant for health care entrepreneurs who have “outgrown the kitchen table, but (have) not yet had their own shop.”

ChicagoNEXT, Emanuel’s council on technology and innovation along with its Chairman J.B. Pritzker, helped develop the business model for Matter. Architecture firm Gensler designed the facility. Design and consulting firm Ideo helped come up with the name, Matter, which has a dual meaning.

“Matter by definition scientifically is the forming of diverse spaces,” said co-founder and board member David Schonthal. “We also expect that it will have significance (that it will matter) to people.”

Chicago has a $50.4 billion medical technology industry, which includes 91 hospitals, six medical schools, more than 500,000 medical technology-related jobs and nearly 60,000 students studying the field at local universities.

Local Chicago companies in pharma and medical equipment manufacturing include Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie, GE Healthcare, Siemens Healthcare and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. The area is also home to federal research labs Argonne and Fermilab.