Here’s Who Won Chicago Innovation Awards This Year

"The winners each year are innovations that uniquely fill unmet needs, spark a competitive response in the marketplace, exceed market expectations, achieve financial success, and improve people’s lives."

Regroup Wins a Chicago Innovation Award

Every year, the Chicago Innovation Awards honors the region's "most innovative products, services and companies."

"The winners each year are innovations that uniquely fill unmet needs, spark a competitive response in the marketplace, exceed market expectations, achieve financial success, and improve people’s lives," the group says. "They emerge from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Most importantly, the Chicago Innovation Awards remind us that innovation is thriving in the Chicago region."

Meet this year's winners, including winners of the Social Innovation, Collaboration, Chicago Neighborhood Awards, Up-and-Comer and People's Choice awards.


When it comes to infant nutrition, the benefits of breast milk are beyond dispute. But because not every mother can breast feed, Abbott Labs has succeeded in unlocking the potential of mother’s milk for ready-to-feed formula. Unlike other infant-nutrition formulas, Abbott’s Similac Pro-Advance and Pro-Sensitive formulas contain a prebiotic plant fiber that beneficially nourishes bacteria already in an infant’s bowels. Prebiotics are different but similar to the more familiar probiotics, which introduce good bacteria into the gut. Prebiotics fertilize good bacteria that’s already present. Infant-nutrition formulas all contain an ingredient known in pediatric circles as a Human Milk Oligosaccharide, or HMO, the third most-abundant ingredient in breast milk after fat and carbohydrates. HMOs circulate throughout the infant’s body, and strengthen the baby’s immune system to be more like the breastfed infant’s. Abbott replicated HMOs so that babies who drink formula can benefit from them. Similac Pro-Advance and Pro-Sensitive are the only formulas available with an added HMO that is bio-structurally identical to the HMO found in mother's milk, and it is produced in a similar way to the way some vitamins are made.

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Integrating research with clinical care is of critical importance, and long overdue. Currently, 86% of scientific discoveries never make it out of the lab. That’s countless approaches, treatments and even potential cures that could speed recovery or save lives, but are never fully or effectively developed. The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (renamed from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in 2017) is integrating science with intention to close this gap and has been explicitly designed to enable translation of research into care faster. The $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan is the first-ever "translational" research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space, 24/7, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or "translating") research real time. The goal: better, faster outcomes for patients.


A Fooda Food Hall replaces all the stations in a traditional cafeteria with a line-up of top-rated local guest restaurants that changes every day, bringing people a wide variety of high-quality meal options at work. The food cost the same, or less than it would in the restaurants. The Food Hall model is a win-win-win solution for 1) Restaurants, who love the added revenue at lunch and the opportunity to get in front of thousands of new people – many of whom will visit the restaurant’s brick and mortar location at night and on the weekends; 2) Employees in the cafeteria’s building, who love supporting local businesses while having an authentic dining experience (rather than food made from the same kitchen, using the same bulk ingredients, and following the same corporate recipes); and 3) The buildings and companies that own the cafeterias, whose costs are reduced by as much as 30%, compared to what they previously experienced from the legacy cafeteria model. While Fooda is disrupting the cafeteria space, staples like made-to-order grill programs, salad bars, delis, grab-and-go snacks, espresso and beverages remain. Food Halls in Chicago can be found in the corporate headquarters of Northern Trust, Hyatt, and 540 West Madison (formerly known as Bank of America Plaza). is the online marketplace to buy, sell and learn about new, used, and vintage music gear. Since launching in 2013, has grown into the world’s most popular music gear website, with more than 10 million musicians and music lovers visiting the website each month. Built by and for musicians, the marketplace makes it easy for anyone — from beginner musicians, mom-and-pop shops, and boutique builders to collectors, large retailers, and rock stars — to connect over the perfect piece of music gear.

Simple Mills

Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers and Sprouted Seed Crackers contain no grain, gluten, soy, GMOs, or artificial flavors or fillers. For the rapidly growing number of consumers who follow diets adhering to these new “clean food” standards, these products fill a critical void. All of the company’s products are made with simple, whole-food, nutrient-dense ingredients and share the same healthy and “free from” benefits without sacrificing taste and texture, in many cases providing the only viable option for consumers who have restricted diets either by choice or necessity.


Livongo has a vision of empowering all people with chronic conditions to live better and healthier lives. We are redesigning chronic condition management, starting with diabetes, by driving behavior change through the combination of consumer health technology, personalized recommendations, and real-time support at the point of impact. Powered by advanced analytics, we create personalized experiences for our members so they receive the right information, tools, and support, at the right time. Our approach is leading to better financial and clinical outcomes while creating a better experience for all people with chronic conditions and their care team of family, friends, and medical professionals.

Valent BioSciences

The traditional way to control adult mosquitoes is to blanket a wide area with a broad spectrum insecticide, but to do so in the evening, when mosquitoes are most active, and beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies are not. Spreading insecticides that target adult mosquitoes during evening hours keeps the insecticide floating in the air close to the ground where mosquitoes live. Zika mosquitoes, however, are active during daylight hours along with bees and other beneficial insects. Valent BioSciences’ VectoBac larvicide, coupled with the company’s innovative wide area larvicide spray technology platform, meets this challenge by delivering a highly targeted biorational insecticide directly into the tiny, hard-to-reach volumes of water where these mosquitoes breed and larvae grow.

150 N. Riverside

150 North Riverside is a 54-story, Class A+ office tower with approximately 1.23 million square feet of rentable space. The building, designed by architect Goettsch Partners, occupies less than 25 percent of its two-acre site and utilizes a combination of unique design methodologies, material selections and technology infrastructure which, in combination, were able to overcome the physical limitations of one of Chicago’s most technically challenging sites. The building structure’s core-supported design results in the 750-foot tower resting atop a base that is merely 38 feet wide. This narrow building footprint allows for more than 75 percent of the property to be unenclosed outdoor space, vastly improving the pedestrian experience on and surrounding the site. The park and plaza have provided over 1,000 lineal feet of seating, multiple assembly/event spaces, and 360 feet of riverwalk frontage, which has already become one of the most populated circulation paths for downtown commuters.

Narrative Science

Despite investing significant resources in data and analytics, organizations struggle to see engagement and adoption of Business Intelligence platforms due to their complexity and the time required to interpret the data. Enter, Narratives for Business Intelligence, a suite of Advanced Natural Language Generation (Advanced NLG) extensions for the world’s leading BI and analytics platforms, including Qlik, Microsoft, Tableau, MicroStrategy and Sisense. Natural language extensions from Narrative Science can also be natively embedded into any proprietary BI or open source visualization platform, dynamically explaining insights in plain English and surfacing relationships not obvious in charts, graphs, or tables.


After building an industry-leading parking marketplace via website and app, SpotHero introduced HeroConnect, a parking mobility platform in 2017, encompassing an open API, SDK and embeddable web widget tools. The HeroConnect Platform provides third parties the development tools necessary to seamlessly offer transactional parking functionality in their native platforms. This allows the broader transportation industry, from automakers to car rental, navigation and data companies, to put SpotHero in their cars, equipment and apps. The innovation serves the mission of a painless, holistic urban mobility ecosystem by connecting automotive and related technology with the broadest network of parking supply in North America. Amid the next wave of vehicle innovation for the drivers of tomorrow, it eliminates hurdles and improves the experience of every journey.


Regroup Telehealth

Regroup Therapy is pioneering Telepsychiatry-as-a-Service across the US. Many of us know that 1 in 5 members of the US population will require access to mental health services each year. What often is not as well understood until care is needed is the deep scarcity of mental health clinicians. 55% of US counties don’t have a single mental health clinician. With an innovative telepsych service platform, Regroup Therapy more efficiently distributes mental health professionals; providing help where the need is greatest.


Benefit Chicago

Benefit Chicago is aiming to raise and invest $100 million in patient, flexible, and risk-tolerant capital, in for-profit and nonprofit social enterprises throughout the region, that are working to build wealth, create jobs, and enhance job readiness. Individuals, corporations, and philanthropies, can support our efforts by investing in our community investment notes.


Oak Street Health

Oak Street Health is a network of primary care centers for adults on Medicare in ‘healthcare deserts.’ We provide an entirely different model of care that is based on value for our patients instead of volume of services. Our centers are located where this is little or no quality healthcare, and we provide care that is personal, spending more than twice as long with our patients. We also hold ourselves accountable for our patients’ health, taking on the risks and costs of their care and providing every patient with the same great care. Most importantly, we are making an impact, providing quality care while reducing hospitals stays and providing an experience like no other. We are redefining healthcare as it should be.


Boombox is Chicago's first pop-up storefront constructed from an upcycled shipping container available for a variety of retail, cultural, community, and marketing experiences. Boombox entrepreneurs innovate at the small scale through this unique space to understand new audiences, realize new markets, and activate their community. Our locations anchor neighborhood commercial corridors across Chicago and can create a comprehensive social enterprise to transform vacant urban spaces as part of redeveloping neighborhood innovation districts. Vacant sites from land to public plazas to transit stations can be repurposed into markets that allow Boombox to bridge the gap between "startup and storefront" for small business in Chicago.

WINGS Program

The Safe House at WINGS Metro, along with WINGS suburban shelter, are the only ones in the state of Illinois to house male and transgender victims of domestic violence who also are provided with private bathrooms. WINGS has a unique approach to assisting victims of domestic violence which is its key to success. Other organizations offer counseling and education services only; some provide emergency shelter or transitional housing only; WINGS is the only domestic violence provider to assist survivors at all level of services and needs.



BallotReady creates datasets and digital tools to inform voters on their entire ballot, every election. Last fall, millions of voters entered the voting booth prepared to vote for president and unprepared for the rest of their ballot. As a result, voters guessed, left blanks, or stayed home altogether. BallotReady believes elected officials matter - all the way down the ballot. We build products to engage voters at every level of government, powered by the comprehensive and complete dataset to local elections.


Georama’s live mobile video insights platform enables organizations to gather or provide insights from anywhere in the world in real-time. Using Georama's proprietary software, broadcasters can share their perspective LIVE from smartphones or smart glasses in reliable HD video while being completely mobile indoors and outdoors, even in poor network conditions. Viewers can watch on any device and interact with broadcasters in real-time to control the experience. Georama's B2B SaaS platform provides a complete solution for customer insights and location insights, with use-case specific features and workflows, along with automation and analytics powered by AI. Georama's customer insights solution enables brands and agencies to generate deeper in-the-moment insights globally for areas including customer experience, shopper insights, and ethnography, in a fraction of the time and money. Georama's location insights solution enables education, hospitality, and industrial organizations to give their customers, partners, or internal stakeholders a live and personalized virtual tour of any location when a physical visit is not feasible.


NowPow, a play on knowledge is power, is a women-owned and led technology company based on Chicago’s south side. The technology empowers care professionals to make highly matched social referrals, communicate with patients and service providers, and track referral outcomes. The multi-sided platform uniquely connects both sides of the referral process—“senders” and “receivers”—to better address patients’ social determinants of health and improve care transitions across networks.


In 2015, David Rabie and Bryan Wilcox founded Tovala on a simple premise; busy people want an effortless way to eat delicious, healthy home-cooked meals. By combining an internet-connected steam oven with meals prepared by world-class chefs, dinner is as easy as scanning a barcode. Based in Chicago, IL, Tovala won the New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in May 2015, completed Y Combinator in March 2016, and began shipping across the U.S. in May 2017. At launch, The Wall Street Journal said: "Tovala turns out super-fast, consistent restaurant-quality meals, making it the first connected kitchen device with real mass appeal.


Chowly integrates Restaurant Aggregator (UberEats, Eat24, etc.) orders into the restaurant’s current point of sale system so staff members don’t waste time manually entering them. Chowly lowers staffing costs by eliminating the need for staff to do data entry. Eliminating this need allows restaurants to add on as many platforms as they wish increasing their net sales. Our automated solution vastly decreases errors as orders are always inputted correctly and quickly.


PhysIQ VitaLink for Clinical Trials is a specialized patient monitoring solution that applies FDA-cleared machine learning analytics to sensor-derived physiological data to transform continuous heart rate, respiration rate, activity, etc into personalized patient insight. Their scalable, device agnostic, CFR Part 11-compliant cloud based platform is transforming how pharma and medical device companies leverage continuous real world data to validate the safety and efficacy of their products. PhysIQ is deploying, internationally, its one-of-a-kind platform to collect and analyze data to support clinical trials across multiple therapeutic areas, including cardiovascular health, pain, neurocognitive disease, and oncology. Recently recognized as one of the most disruptive companies in the clinical trials space, physIQ is working with the biggest names in the biopharma and medical device industries.

ExplORer Surgical

ExplORer is an interactive playbook for the operating room and interventional suite that reduces disruptions and wasted disposables by improving team communication. ExplORer also provides real-time performance and scheduling data to administrators to enhance quality of care and efficiency. Teams use the software to coordinate their activities while managing their tools and supplies in a way never before possible. The result is optimal teamwork, increased efficiency, and high performance.


Tock is a comprehensive platform built to fundamentally change the way restaurants think about and run their business. This includes the industry's first cloud-based reservation, guest, and table management system for restaurants, wineries, and other culinary experiences across the globe. Today, Tock has seated millions of guests, processed over $210M in prepaid reservations, and has built the definitive platform for discovering the best culinary experiences around the world - From Alinea, Milk Room, and Smyth and the Loyalist here in Chicago, to Eleven Madison Park, The French Laundry, The Fat Duck, Atelier Crenn, and hundreds more across the world.


Pearachute is a monthly membership club that makes it easy for parents and caregivers to discover, book, and drop into the best kids’ activities in your city. We create opportunities to bring families together in a way they never could before. Now dads can drop into basketball classes with their kids and moms can book parent/child coding classes–all at the touch of a button, all for one affordable monthly rate.

The LISA App

The beauty industry is a 75 billion dollar machine where the average service provider, who we call Artists, earns a poverty wage of 22K per year. LISA has created a B2B open-marketplace infrastructure to help the Artist community work entrepreneurially on their own terms. Corporations are spending a fortune recruiting, hiring and training top talent. LISA is able to assist these corporations with our 'next generation perk suite'. These companies love not only the services, but, the easy to use technology for their employees, allowing them to schedule, book and pay directly in The LISA App - saving the HR/ Benefit Directors 2-3 hours per week in maintenance. Companies like GrubHub, Echo, Enova, BBB, @properties, 1871, Ogilvy, SpotHero to name a few, are among the forward thinking companies that realize LISA does not just provide a ‘beauty service’ to their employees, but a smart and savvy technology they can be proud to share with their team.


Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

IN2 Steve and Jamie Chen Center for Innovation and Inquiry at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) is Illinois' first secondary education innovation center. In true entrepreneurial spirit, this IMSA startup raised $2M in private funds to renovate 6,400 square feet and formally opened in 2017. IN2@IMSA nurtures the next generation of discoverers, creators and thinkers through STEM entrepreneurship and maker space education in a space that reflects the evolving collaborative, cross-sector, and high-tech nature of innovation. IN2@IMSA connects talented Illinois students to Chicago-area startups and mentors while providing a workspace for solution-based explorations and collaborations with corporations, external students and teachers. IN2 is guided by IMSA’s foundational philosophy of equity and excellence underpinning its mission to ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds than advance the human condition.

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