Kaplan Institute for Innovation coming to IIT
September 7, 2018

The Illinois Institute of Technology is constructing the Kaplan Institute, its first new academic building on campus in four decades.

By Peter Winslow

The Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship (KI) is set to open this coming October for students attending the Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech, or IIT). 

The new two-story, 70,000 square-foot building is designed by John Ronan Architects and will be the first academic building added to the IIT primary campus in more than 40 years.  IIT is well known for its engineering, computer programming, and architecture curriculums.

The new institute is named after Ed Kaplan, co-founder of Zebra Technologies, one of Chicago’s first early publicly traded technology companies and a behemoth in barcode technology.  Kaplan also founded the New Venture Challenge, considered to be the number one university accelerator program in the nation that is based in the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. 

Kaplan received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from IIT in 1965 and is now a member of the institute’s board.  Kaplan and his wife donated $11 million to spearhead the project’s development. 

The Kaplan Institute will act as an entryway for the IIT academic community into the world of tech innovation and business creation, providing students with experience and skill sets required by a vastly expanding and competitive industry.  The new space will house IIT’s Institute of Design and feature media labs, classrooms, collaborative hubs, and maker labs to undergraduate and graduate students.

Veteran entrepreneur

Howard Tullman was appointed on May 1 as executive director of the Kaplan Institute.  Tullman is a veteran entrepreneur who for more than 50 years has launched successful and accredited high-tech companies in the Chicago area. 

Prior to his appointment, Tullman was CEO for 1871, a hub for technology and entrepreneurship that was ranked first in the 2018 UBI Global List of Top University-Affiliated Business Incubators, as well as a general managing partner at Chicago High Tech Investment Partners and G2T3V LLC. Both are venture capital funds that invest in disruptive innovations. UBI Global helps business incubators become more efficient and competitive.

Tullman is also a member of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Cultural Advisory Council, the Illinois Arts Council, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT council, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s New Media Council.

“We think the Kaplan Institute will attract more interest in Illinois Tech and bring more opportunities to our campus and employment opportunities for our students, “ said Tullman.  “Our goal is to make it clear that we are graduating some of the best engineers in the country, as there is a tremendous desire for diversity and skills for fresh graduates.” 

Under his direction, Tullman hopes to dramatically accelerate and expand the number of startups being developed and launched for IIT both as independent businesses and as partnerships and joint ventures with outside corporations. 

Good for Bronzeville

In regard to creation of the new institute and of Tullman’s appointment, 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell said, “I think Howard Tullman is an excellent selection for the institute,” noting that his hiring “suggests to the world that the Kaplan Institute is going to be a huge laboratory for creating new products and cutting edge technology. 

“I think the new institute is encouraging the city and Bronzeville community to be forward thinking about what the next facility should be for young people who have new and emerging ideas about technology and our future,” Dowell added.

The institute hopes to not only bring beneficial resources and amenities to the students attending Illinois Tech, but also to nearby communities and blighted communities in the city.  Tullman said that an issue he looks forward to solving is finding a way to distribute the success of Chicago’s tech sector and incorporate it into the rest of the city.

“We expect that the new KI will attract and encourage additional real estate development in the Bronzeville area, “ said Tullman.

IIT is at 10 W. 35th St. For information about the Kaplan Institute, call (312) 567-3743. To contact Alderman Dowell, call (773) 373-9273.