Supporting and advancing Illinois entrepreneurship,
innovation, and economic development.

Who We Are

The Illinois University Incubator Network (IUIN) supports advancement of entrepreneurship through linking university incubators to resource sharing, technical assistance, and the collection of best practices. The IUIN partners with the University of Illinois EDA University Center to provide support for incubation, entrepreneurship, and technology based economic development projects in Illinois – with a primary focus on serving downstate communities. The IUIN partners with the Illinois FAST Center to support technology based entrepreneurs (TBE) and startups seeking SBIR/STTR funding for small business innovation research. The IUIN and the EDA University Center are led by EnterpriseWorks at the University of Illinois Research Park with funding support provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Illinois FAST Center is led by EnterpriseWorks at the University of Illinois with funding support provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

What We Do

Meet The IUIN Leadership Team


Cheri Soliday

Outreach Coordinator, Incubation and Entrepreneurship

Contact Information
(217) 244-6097

Cheri Soliday manages grant-funded outreach activities and projects that provide support and services for incubation, entrepreneurship, and economic development throughout Illinois. Her portfolio includes the Illinois University Incubator Network (IUIN), the University of Illinois EDA University Center, and the Illinois FAST Center.

Cheri joined the EnterpriseWorks team in September 2018. Previously she served as a senior research program manager for a $28M research consortium funded by the Department of Energy and focused on cybersecurity of energy delivery systems. Prior to that, Cheri provided outreach and program management for a $10M academic research center funded by Intel/Microsoft and focused on multicore and parallel programming. Cheri also had the honor of investing in the development of students through her roles at Parkland College and Danville Area Community College. She has a B.S. degree in Advertising and an M.S. degree in Management and Leadership.


Laura Appenzeller

Executive Director, University of Illinois Research Park and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Economic Development

Contact Information
(217) 333-8323

Laura Appenzeller oversees the University of Illinois Research Park operations and development, manages the entrepreneurship programs at EnterpriseWorks technology incubator, and supports the University’s economic development efforts. She also serves as the Assistance Vice Chancellor of Innovation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and serves as the primary lead on federal and state funding awards managed by EnterpriseWorks.

Laura is active in numerous regional organizations including the Advisory Council of the Illinois Technology Association, the board and Executive Committee of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, the board of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, ChicagoNEXT Council, the elected board of the Association of University Research, and she is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago.

Laura was named “Woman of the Year” by Central Illinois Business Magazine in 2009; awarded the Entrepreneur Advocacy Award at the Champaign County Innovation Celebration, 2011; presented the 2013 Athena Young Professional Award; and awarded a Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) Award, 2015. Laura is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Media and served as Student Body President at the Urbana-Champaign campus.


Laura Bleill

Director of External Engagement, EnterpriseWorks and Research Park at Illinois

Contact Information
(217) 244-7744

Laura Weisskopf Bleill manages the community building portfolio of the Research Park at Illinois. She develops strategy behind the Research Park’s events, programming, communications, branding and marketing efforts; and directs its strategy to attract, grow, retain and train its workforce. She works closely with the corporate innovation centers as well as the startups. She is active with the entrepreneurial ecosystem across campus, as a founding member of the iVenture Accelerator team, a Cozad New Venture Challenge mentor/trainer, and a former instructor with National Science Foundation I-Corps at Illinois team. She is the co-PI and co-founder of the AWARE entrepreneurship inclusion effort (originally funded by NSF) which now has been replicated at other universities.

A journalist by training, Laura is the CEO and co-founder of a hyperlocal digital magazine, Laura actively supports programs led by the Illinois University Incubator Network (IUIN), the University of Illinois EDA University Center, and the Illinois FAST Center. She is a past president (and longtime member) of the Visit Champaign County Board of Directors, a member of the Board of Directors for the Visit Champaign County Foundation, and is on the board of Leadership Illinois. A native of the Chicago suburbs, she has a master’s and bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

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