IDEA Center’s Venture Accelerator Program Now Open To The Public

The IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame, Startup South Bend – Elkhart and Elevate Ventures announced today that the IDEA Center’s venture accelerator program, the Commercialization Engine, is now open to residents of the South Bend-Elkhart region to submit their business ideas to free of charge.

Already responsible for the creation of 25 Notre Dame startup companies since July 2017, the Commercialization Engine program takes commercially viable early-stage business ideas through a comprehensive derisking process and transforms them into productive market applications.

“After a year of proven success with Notre Dame faculty, staff and students, we’re truly excited to open up the Commercialization Engine program to the surrounding community,” said Bryan Ritchie, Notre Dame vice president and associate provost for innovation. “Expanding our venture accelerator program to the many great ideas in the South Bend-Elkhart region is an important step towards us creating an ecosystem of innovation in this region.”

Adding to this, Iris Hammel, executive director of RISE and board member of Startup South Bend – Elkhart, said “Momentum is building around entrepreneurship and startups in this region. The IDEA Center is best-in-class when it comes to commercializing ideas so it only makes sense for our community to leverage such a strong ally and resource.”

To apply to become part of the Commercialization Engine, residents of the South Bend – Elkhart region should visit and register. Upon registration, teams will undergo a series of stage-gated review steps, starting with Startup South Bend-Elkhart and then by a board comprised of experienced business leaders in the community and qualified employees of the IDEA Center. Through this process, teams will be connected with mentors and resources from the Startup South Bend – Elkhart board. If ultimately determined to have commercial opportunity, the business idea will enter the Commercialization Engine’s core accelerator program, the 4-cylinder, where it will undergo substantial processes of development.

“We’re interested in achieving results,” said Regina Emberton, president and CEO of the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership. “We believe that partnering with the IDEA Center and utilizing its tried and tested Commercialization Engine program will help advance the creation of high potential companies in this region.”

The Commercialization Engine was originally developed by Ritchie and his team at Technology and Venture Commercialization at the University of Utah, where he served as associate vice president for technology venture development and associate vice president for research from 2012 to 2016. The University of Utah has been recognized by several organizations, including the Milken Institute, as being the number one university commercialization operation in the United States.

In the nearly five years Ritchie led the University of Utah’s commercialization efforts, over 100 companies were founded through its Commercialization Engine program, over $700 million in external investment funding was secured for Utah ventures and nearly $6 billion was spent by firms to acquire University of Utah-founded companies.

When Ritchie joined Notre Dame in 2017, he brought along with him a three-member team from the University of Utah that was instrumental in the creation and running of Utah’s Commercialization Engine program. That same team created the enhanced and expanded program of the same name that is currently being used at the IDEA Center.

Prior to opening the Commercialization Engine program to residents of the South Bend-Elkhart region, it was only available to faculty, staff and students of Notre Dame. Ritchie said that it will open to Notre Dame alumni in early October.


About the IDEA Center
Standing for Innovation, De-Risking and Enterprise Acceleration, the IDEA Center is the fundamental resource for all commercialization and entrepreneurial activities at the University of Notre Dame. Its goal is to translate staff and student discoveries, launch startup companies, and leverage meaningful partnerships for social and commercial benefit. Learn more at

About Startup South Bend-Elkhart
Startup South Bend – Elkhart is a community partnership between the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Development Authority and Elevate Ventures, an Indianapolis-based venture capital fund and entrepreneurial development partner. Startup South Bend – Elkhart is a centering catalyst that ignites new business creation and prosperity by leveraging the unique and united assets of the region. Its goal is to foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan by stimulating the innovative spirit and culture in our citizens, nurturing new business startups and supporting the growth of existing high potential companies. Learn more at

About Elevate Ventures
Elevate Ventures is a private venture development organization that nurtures and develops emerging and existing high-potential businesses into high-performing, Indiana-based companies. Elevate Ventures accomplishes this by providing access to capital, rigorous business analysis and robust advisory services that connect companies with the right mix of resources businesses need to succeed long-term. Learn more about Elevate Ventures at

About the Commercialization Engine
The Commercialization Engine at the IDEA Center is a value-adding process that takes early-stage business ideas through a process of de-risking and transforms them into life-changing and productive applications. This is accomplished by thoroughly understanding early business ideas, finding their value, determining their market fit, acting on feedback from potential customers, protecting IP, creating a strong business model, identifying milestones, and executing an acceleration plan.

The Commercialization Engine is split into three stages to focus efforts on milestones that help de-risk, vet, and develop early business ideas. These stages are named after different engine sizes: 1) the 2-stroke, 2) 4-cylinder, and 3) the V8. Each engine size represents the level of resources, development, and understanding of the market opportunity for the idea and the stage of that idea’s business model. Each of the three stages has specific deliverables and objectives that must be met in order for a business idea to move on to the next stage of development. Learn more at