Transform Accelerator Launched to Support Data Science and AI Startups


The University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Data Science Institute have come together to launch Transform, a new accelerator that will provide early-stage companies utilizing advances in data science and AI with full-spectrum support. This includes access to business and technical training, industry mentorship, venture capital connections, and funding opportunities.

The accelerator is targeting two cohorts of up to 10 companies each. Startups accepted into the program will receive approximately $250,000 in total investment, including $25,000 in funding, usage of UChicago computing resources, credits for Amazon Web Services and Google for Startups, workspace in the Polsky Exchange on Chicago’s South Side, and access to industry mentors, technical advisors, and student talent from the University of Chicago Department of Computer Science, Data Science Institute (DSI), and the Chicago Booth School of Business.

Applications for the inaugural Transform cohort are due January 25, 2023. Companies should be focused on fields such as AI and machine learning, data engineering, data analytics, applications in healthcare and biotech, cybersecurity, IoT, climate tech and environment, blockchain, social impact, transportation, fintech, agriculture, and others. The Data Science Institute, launched in 2021, executes the University’s bold, innovative vision of data science as a new discipline, seeding interdisciplinary research, forming partnerships with industry, government, and social impact organizations, and supporting holistic data science education.

Chicago-based venture capital firms raised more than $5.7 billion in 2021, while nine Chicago-based companies crossed the $1 billion-plus “unicorn” valuation level. The Chicago tech ecosystem also leads the nation in diversity, with 34 percent of Chicago’s startups run by women and 26 percent of the tech workforce identifying as Black or Latinx — more than three times the national average.

The formula for Duality, the nation’s first quantum science and technology accelerator, run by the Polsky Center and the Chicago Quantum Exchange, will be used for Transform. Duality has supported 11 quantum-focused startups across two cohorts, with member companies successfully achieving government funding and industry acquisition.

Startups under the Deep Tech Ventures program will have access to various funding mechanisms. Deep Tech Ventures expects to raise an external $25 million venture fund in 2023 to support deep tech startups looking for seed-stage and Series A funding. As part of Deep Tech Ventures, Transform will help up to 20 startups per year grow their businesses in the Chicago area. The program is open to all members of the Chicago tech community, and not limited to UChicago-based startups.

Transform will offer a combination of resources, training, and funding to the tech startup community. A pool of mentors from various industries are ready to provide the teams with the support they need. The mission of the Data Science Institute is to develop data science as an emerging new discipline. Transform bolsters this vision, creating the unique opportunity to translate foundational discoveries in data science and AI into technologies that address real-world challenges.