Alicia Löffler, executive director of the Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO), will step down at the end of the 2022 Fall Quarter after 12 years in INVO and more than 20 years at Northwestern University.
As the founding director of INVO, Löffler helped create several prominent Northwestern programs, including The Garage, the Querrey InQbation Lab, the N.XT Fund and Lakeside. Löffler was pivotal in the inception of entrepreneurial training programs such as the Chicago Innovation Mentors (CIM) and INVOForward.
She also serves as the University’s associate provost for innovation and new ventures, and associate vice president for research.
“I feel immensely grateful that Northwestern offered me a sandbox to play in and build new initiatives at the intersection of science, innovation and entrepreneurship,” Löffler said. “When I started at INVO, I said my job was to put myself out of a job and support the creation of a self-sustaining ecosystem grounded in a strong culture. It is now time for me to move on to my next venture.”
The search for Löffler’s successor will begin soon, with the process guided by a steering group of the University’s senior leaders, including Provost Kathleen Hagerty, Executive Vice President Craig Johnson, Vice President for Research Milan Mrksich, and Vice Provost for Administration and Chief of Staff Jake Julia. They will be supported by the search firm Isaacson, Miller.
Hagerty said Löffler has had a deep impact on many at Northwestern.
“Alicia has touched lives of students, faculty and staff across campus,” Hagerty said. “Her steadfast belief that innovation not only supports, but is critical to, the mission of the University has born fruits in the form of programs and initiatives such as INVO, The Garage and the Center for Biotechnology. Alicia has changed the way we support our own innovators and entrepreneurs.”
Löffler oversees strategy and operations at INVO, including educational commercialization and new ventures. But Löffler’s legacy extends beyond INVO and touches multiple schools.
Before forming the INVO team, Löffler co-founded the country’s first professional Master of Science in Biotechnology at Northwestern in 1992. As the biotech sector was finding its footing, this program trained scientists to join the sector. The program transitioned in 2001 to the Kellogg School of Management, where Löffler founded and directed the Center for Biotechnology, which prepares MBA students to build science-driven startups. During her time at Kellogg, she also co-founded the NUVention Medical class.
In 2010, Löffler joined the administration to lead the development of a then-new office: Innovation and New Ventures, designed to support the University’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and accelerate the translation of student- and faculty-driven inventions to the public.
Under Löffler’s leadership, innovation has become a more prominent part of the University’s mission. Among the highlights:
- The number of Northwestern-based startups have more than quadrupled during Löffler’s tenure with INVO, to 123.
- Since 2010, Northwestern has seen a 63% increase in inventions, with INVO facilitating almost 2,600 inventions.
- INVO also has supported a substantial increase in filed and issued patents since 2010, with a 152% increase in patents filed and a 279% increase in patents issued.
“Throughout her Northwestern tenure, Alicia has made important and varied contributions to our innovation ecosystem,” said Mrksich, vice president for research. “She and the INVO team understand the beneficial societal impact that comes from translating our research into products and ventures that transform people’s lives for the better. Her efforts also have played a key role in creating an environment that cultivates entrepreneurial leadership among our faculty as well as our students.”
Löffler has shaped Northwestern in ways that benefit current and future students, faculty and staff. The Garage, Northwestern’s student startup community, has supported more than 1,000 startups since Löffler oversaw its inception in 2015.
Löffler said The Garage has helped shift the University’s culture in an entrepreneurial and innovative direction by investing in “billion-dollar people, not billion-dollar companies.”
“I am proud of the legacy Alicia will be leaving behind,” said Peter Barris ’74, chair of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees and the Board’s first chair of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee from 2011 to 2016. “She has helped take Northwestern to the place it is today in positioning it as a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation.”
In addition, she drove partnerships with Deerfield Management and Lakeside, accelerators to develop therapeutics.
Outside of her passion for innovation and biotechnology, Löffler expanded opportunities for individuals at Northwestern to succeed. She continually created new entrepreneurial training programs, including commercialization clinics; the Center for Device Development; CIM, a team-based mentoring program Löffler co-founded with University of Chicago and University of Illinois-Chicago that matches innovating faculty with teams of experienced entrepreneurs, executives and domain experts; INVOReach, which focuses on developing resources that improve diversity of inventorship and entrepreneurship at Northwestern; and INVOForward, a customer discovery bootcamp for Northwestern entrepreneurial faculty and startups.
“Alicia’s work at INVO has helped Northwestern innovators and entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality,” said Kimberly K. Querrey (’22, ’23 P), chair of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees. “Her unmatched enthusiasm and incredible vision have allowed her to make an immeasurable impact on every initiative she’s touched, putting Northwestern on the map as a hub for innovation.”
Löffler was named one of the Tech 100 stars by Crain’s Chicago Business and received the “Women in Black” I-Street Award and the 2011 Innovator Award presented by the Chicago Chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS).