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The 2024 mHUB HardTech Summit Recap

The 2024 mHUB HardTech Summit commenced on Thursday, March 14, drawing in hundreds of startups, investors, community partners, corporates, and industry leaders interested in the advancement of smart and sustainable manufacturing, medical technology, climate and energy solutions, and more.

Attendees were treated to a dynamic program featuring 48 hardtech demos from mHUB member companies, 28 startup pitches, three engaging panel discussions, two fireside conversations with industry leaders, and enlightening closing remarks from the Department of Energy’s Deputy Secretary, David M. Turk. Against the backdrop of mHUB's newly opened facility on Chicago’s Near West Side, the summit proved the Midwest is committed to fostering an accessible and hyper-resourced entrepreneurial ecosystem for hardtech.

This year, the Summit again intersected with mHUB’s Fourth Revolution Awards, which honors individuals and organizations driving the convergence of physical product development and digital processes in the Midwest’s manufacturing economy. A highlight of the HardTech Summit was the Rising Star Pitch Competition, where four leading hardtech competed for top honors, following the full award reception the night before.

Read the Official Award Winner Announcement for the 7th Annual Fourth Revolution Awards

Importance of the mHUB HardTech Summit:

At the core of mHUB's mission lies the vision of establishing Chicago as a global leader in product development and manufacturing entrepreneurship. The organization, alongside its partners, has played a pivotal role in putting Chicago on the map as a hub for hardtech innovation. As mHUB continues to grow in ambition and impact, its focus remains on advancing technologies that address critical global challenges in climate, energy, medicine, health, and manufacturing.

The HardTech Summit provided an opportunity to reflect on mHUB's economic impact, with impressive statistics showcasing the strength of its startup community. From patents awarded to products launched, and from jobs created to revenue generated, mHUB's influence is felt across various sectors. Additionally, the organization's strategic investments and partnerships aim to further propel innovation and drive economic growth in the region.

On a national level, mHUB's efforts align with broader initiatives to advance clean technologies and bolster national security. Through strategic investments and policy frameworks like the IRA and CHIPS acts, the U.S. is poised to lead in critical technology development, paving the way for a sustainable future.

In Illinois, mHUB's contributions are amplified by state policies and strategic planning, positioning the region as a hub for hard, deep science-based research and development. From energy infrastructure to quantum computing, Illinois is at the forefront of innovation, driving advancements that will shape the future of manufacturing and technology.

With a historic $50M investment in its new facility, mHUB has solidified its position as a beacon of hardtech innovation in the heart of the U.S. This investment serves as a testament to mHUB's unwavering commitment to driving innovation and fostering collaboration in the hardtech ecosystem.

Looking ahead, mHUB remains laser-focused on scaling its diverse community, executing strategic initiatives, and organizing venture capital to ensure that hardtech continues to thrive. With a strong emphasis on inclusivity and sustainability, mHUB is poised to lead the way in revolutionizing manufacturing and technology, paving the path for a brighter, more sustainable future.

Keep reading for a full recap of the 2024 HardTech Summit:

Kicking things off with a strong start, Eric Lefkofsky, founder and CEO of Tempus, sat down in conversation with Kristen Murtos, Chief Innovation & Transformation Officer, Endeavor Health. As a successful serial entrepreneur with ventures such as Groupon, Lightbank, Mediaocean, Echo Global Logistics, and InnerWorkings under his belt, Eric provided a wealth of wisdom and insight for startup founders in the community, particularly those innovating in healthcare and exploring practical applications of AI.

The first panel of the mHUB HardTech Summit, moderated by Meera Raja, Vice President, Deep Tech at P33 Chicago, explored points of connection across fields of emerging technology such as AI, quantum, energy, and more. Panelists sought to answer what the opportunities, fears, and needs are that must be addressed on the road to commercializing emerging technology.

The panelists were Kristian Hammond, Kristian Hammond, Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University, Manish Kumar Singh, Co-founder and CEO of memQ, Kate Waimey Timmerman, CEO of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, and Colleen Wright, VP of Corporate Strategy at Constellation.

As panel conversations were underway on the main stage, member companies kicked startup pitches on a second stage in mHUB’s co-working space. First to take the stage were hardtech and smart manufacturing startups: Asoncer, Framewrks, Ganance, Maison DIA, Plateful, Stroma Vision, Inc., Twinmo, and Zenblen.

Concurrent to panel discussions and startup pitches, mHUB members conducted live product demonstrations in its assembly space throughout the event. Event Sponsor OMRON also participated in the demonstrations.

Some member startups that participated in product demonstrations included: Blip Energy, Fluid Reality, Ganance, Dawatek, Walela, and Wave Therapeutics.

The second panel discussion, moderated by Joey Mak, CEO, Chicago:Blend, put a spotlight on the realities of raising money as an early-stage startup. Panelists provided insight and tips from their own experience and expertise on how to successful interface with dilutive and non-dilutive fundraising.

The featured panelists were Paul Couston, Co-founder and CEO, Ascent Integrated Tech, Kristi Dula, Deputy Director, Office of Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Technology, Illinois Department of Commerce, Coco Meers, CEO & Co-Founder, Equilibria, and Anna Lisa Somera, CEO, Rhaeos.

Meanwhile, startups pitches continued on, featuring these Sustainability and EnergyTech focused startups who took to the co-working stage: Arke Inc., Blip Energy, Carbon SeaQuest, Inc., GarboCarbo Inc., infiniRel Corporation, Kazadi Enterprises Ltd., Metasorbex, NETenergy, and Tikal Industries.

The third panel discussion, moderated by Sunny Elebua, SVP, Chief Strategy & Sustainability Officer, Exelon, addressed how the manufacturing industry is at a unique crossroads as regulations, policy, and investors are demanding more sustainable practices. Achieving this would require advancing technologies to reduce and capture GHGs, advances in material consumption practices, and driving broad adoptions of smart automation, microgrids, battery storage, the internet of things, and more. Panelists discussed the risk this transformation poses for U.S. manufacturing, as well as what the competitive advantages are created or eroded by it.

The featured panelist speakers were Mark Denzler, President and CEO, Illinois Manufacturers'​ Association, Ryan Hackler, CEO and Co-founder, Aeternal Upcycling, Jenna Kunde, Global Sustainability Director, Johnson Controls, Petros Sofronis, Director, International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research.

As the third panel kicked off, the last hour of startup pitches began. The following MedTech startups closed out the startup stage of the mHUB HardTech Summit: AyrFlo Innovation Labs, Inc., Cast21, Curiva, Dawatek Inc, EndoShunt Medical Inc., Lemonaide,Co, Madison Scientific, Walela Inc., and Wave Therapeutics

Back on the Main Stage, the Rising Star Pitch Competition commenced as each of the four early-stage startup finalists, Ascent Integrated Tech, Intuitap Medical, Mycocycle, and Sabanto, pitched before a live judging panel. The Rising Star Award recognizes an early-stage startup for its innovation, creativity, and position as the next great hardtech company to emerge in the region. Congratulations to Ascent Integrated Tech, who was announced at the end of the program as the 2024 Rising Star.

Prior to the closing fireside conversation, David M. Turk, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, gave remarks on his leading role in national security, international diplomacy, and implementing the Biden administration’s historic clean energy legislation, while supporting the Secretary in driving the Departments fundamental missions. Alongside the Secretary, he has orchestrated an agency-wide reorganization that emphasizes early-stage innovation, introducing initiatives like the Energy Earthshots, and broadening the department's mission to encompass the demonstration and deployment of clean energy technologies. The HardTech Summit was an opportunity for Turk to see the passion and incredible impact of the regional innovation ecosystem, and to begin forging a deeper relationship but with the innovators, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers that are going to take nascent technologies, transverse the valley of death, and build and scale the businesses that will create impactful change.

LanzaJet CEO Jimmy Samartzis and former LanzaTech COO Carl Wolf sat down with Meghan Busse, Associate Professor of Strategy, Kellog School of Management at Northwestern University, for a conversation on the enablement of industrial partners to capture and process carbon-rich gases and upcycle them into useful fuels and materials.

LanzaJet is a global leader in sustainable fuels technology and production. Under Samartzis’ leadership, LanzaJet has achieved historic firsts in advancing the clean energy transition, including the construction of the world’s first commercial ethanol to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production facility in Georgia. With projects in 25 countries, Samartzis’ contributions have led to breakthroughs in sustainable aviation fuel and low-carbon fuels. Carl Wolf joined LanzaTech in 2011 and, prior to his role as COO, was a consultant at BCS, Incorporated, where he worked with environmental and energy sector clients, including the U.S. Department of Energy. LanzaTech is a carbon recycling company transforming waste carbon into sustainable raw materials for everyday products. Using its biorecycling technology, LanzaTech captures carbon generated by energy-intensive industries at the source, preventing it from being emitted into the air.

Stay Involved with mHUB

If you enjoyed the 2024 HardTech Summit, find out ways to stay involved with mHUB and the hardtech ecosystem. Keep an eye out for announcements about mHUB’s next HardTech Summit in March 2025!