Mark Harris


Mark Harris is the President & CEO of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC), a member-driven, nonprofit that measures, connects, and advocates for the Illinois innovation economy. ISTC makes powerful links between the state’s universities, industry, startups, and high schools to strengthen the regional economy through data collection, policy advocacy, and programs.
Mark also leads the affiliated Illinois Science & Technology Institute, (ISTI), which provides programs to support the development of the Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) talent pipeline.
He has more than fifteen years of experience working in government, economic development, and higher education. Mark holds a BS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an MA from the University of Chicago.


Chicago boasts one of the world’s largest and most diverse economies, with world-class logistics, the global headquarters of 36 Fortune 500 companies, and a vibrant entrepreneurial community. But perhaps the most fundamental ingredient to position our city for growth, innovation, and smart infrastructure solutions in the decades to come is a connected innovation ecosystem. In Chicago, there have been a number of intentional efforts over the last few years to build structures that more sustainably align our public and private sectors, our universities and federal labs, and the non-profit community, to more strategically solve important problems in transportation, clean energy, information technology, healthcare, agriculture, financial services, and other essential industries to our economy.

The presentation will focus first on the defining elements of Chicago’s innovation infrastructure. This includes the evolving role of our universities as the true startup incubators of our region, our ‘innovation hubs’ – physical spaces created through public-private investment – which connect research, talent, and industry to commercialize new technologies, and our capital infrastructure.

Then will explore examples of effective intermediary organizations and specific projects and initiatives which are tackling ‘smart city’ challenges and also setting a vision and strategy for long-term infrastructure projects to prepare Chicago and Illinois for continued growth. This includes the ISTC’s work in supporting an ecosystem around smart grid modernization; UILABS’ City Tech Collaborative, which is leading projects to transform cities into testbeds for new ideas; and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago’s Technology Leadership Initiative, which is providing visioning around long-term transportation needs. This follows the recent trailblazing announcement of Chicago’s partnership with Elon Musk’s The Boring Company, to build and operate underground express service between the airport and downtown utilizing electric vehicles.