09 Mar New IU Sports Innovation Initiative reflects game plan to grow Indiana’s sports tech sector
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2023
EDITOR’S NOTE: High-res video of IU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Scott Dolson and Bill Stephan, chair of the board of directors of IU Ventures, discussing the impact of the IU Sports Innovation Initiative are available online.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There’s a growing team in the effort to accelerate the development of Indiana’s rapidly emerging sports-tech sector.
On the eve of this year’s Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, the leaders of Indiana University Athletics and IU Ventures revealed a game plan, building on past efforts, to jointly help build a sports-tech sector that rivals other major tech areas in the Hoosier state. The Indiana University Sports Innovation Initiative will uncover new opportunities to improve the student athlete experience, increase on-field competitiveness and grow a pipeline of venture backable sports tech startups.
IU Ventures is a 501(c)(3) affiliate of IU that assists IU students, faculty, staff and alums with advancing high-potential new ventures.
“Indiana’s business, technology and sports leaders continue to predict an explosion in the sports-tech sector and have been steadfastly and eagerly building toward this moment for a number of years,” said IU Ventures President and CEO Tony Armstrong. “As such, it’s the perfect time for IU Athletics and IU Ventures to prioritize a game plan centered around advancing the creation of highly promising, IU-affiliated sports technology ideas and putting those ideas into action.
“We’re confident that we’ve constructed a winning and accomplished team to help Indiana compete and thrive in the sports-tech sector now and well into the future.”
The IU Sports Innovation Initiative has outlined a model for identifying, evaluating and advancing high-potential, IU-affiliated innovations that are being developed across several key sectors within the booming sports-tech marketplace. (According to one recent industry analysis, the sports-tech marketplace accounted for more than $12 billion in 2021 globally and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20 percent from now until 2030.) These key sectors include:
- Athletic performance
- Free-to-play games/e-sports
- Fan engagement/fan experience
- Materials and apparel
- Performance analytics made possible by AI and big data
- Sports media
As part of their exploration and research process, IU Athletics and IU Ventures will determine whether to help support initiatives based on several criteria, including whether they will help IU Athletics win more games and championships; generate additional revenue streams; and augment the student-athlete and fan experience. Projects also will be evaluated on their potential to facilitate experiential learning opportunities for students; contribute to the growth of Indiana’s sports-tech ecosystem; develop new sports-tech companies that create jobs in Indiana; and create a pipeline for angel investment opportunities.
“This is a win-win all across the board,” said Scott Dolson, IU vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics. “It’s a win because one of our big priorities is to find ways to integrate and collaborate with the broader university campus. This is also an incredible opportunity for our student-athletes. For us to be able to explore and establish cutting-edge ways to improve their performance and to help them grow on and off the field — all while helping to fuel innovation that can lead to new companies and jobs for Hoosiers — is huge for us, our university and our state.”
Recent years have seen IU Athletics further its reputation as a national and global leader in sports-related innovation, as reflected by recent investments in 3D broadcast, augmented and virtual reality, and 3D virtual studio technologies housed at the pioneering Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology, performance-monitoring devices, name, image and likeness opportunities, and esports.
Collectively, these developments represent the next evolution in IU’s sports tech programming, the roots of which go back to the 1950s, when legendary IU swimming coach James “Doc” Counsilman introduced video and timing tech innovations to the pool to help student athletes break records, earn NCAA titles and win Olympic medals. IU is also home to one of the world’s foremost sports scientists in Dr. Lawrence Rink, as well as the state-of-the-art Indiana Athletics Excellence Academy, one of the most innovative and effective personal development programs in all of intercollegiate athletics.
Concurrently, IU Ventures has sought to strengthen partnerships with local, state and national tech-venture leaders with the goal of finding, supporting and advancing, among other innovations, dual-use technologies that might be applied across multiple sectors, including sports, cybersecurity, defense and the life sciences.
For example, IU’s women’s rowing team recently incorporated performance-tracking, wearable technology into its practice regimen. The intelligent technology is provided by Sentinel Occupational Safety, a Department of Defense spinoff and IU Ventures portfolio company, founded in 2020 by IU Kelley School of Business alumnus Zachary Kiehl, that works to preserve the lives of professionals in high-risk employment sectors, such as the military, health care, fire departments, law enforcement and manufacturing.
Over the last four decades, Indianapolis has developed a national and international reputation for hosting major sporting events, and recent years have seen state leaders launch a strategic effort to build Indiana’s brand as a hub for sports technology companies. Last summer, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and Indiana Sports Corp. launched a new nonprofit, SportsTech HQ, to invest in sports tech entrepreneurs and cultivate a sports tech ecosystem. Indianapolis is also home to the Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy, which helps entrepreneurs succeed by providing them with mentorship, funding and fundraising opportunities, and other resources.
Leaders from IU Athletics and IU Ventures believe that IU’s championship pedigree, world-class research and innovation enterprise, and expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem will heighten Indiana’s competitive advantage as the state seeks to spur new innovations in sports tech and maximize existing investments in high-potential startups in sports and entertainment through partnerships and collaboration.
“This partnership allows us to differentiate Indiana University and IU Athletics from everyone else,” said Bill Stephan, chair of the board of directors of IU Ventures. “We have an opportunity to take advantage of the cutting-edge technologies that are in this field currently, the partnerships IU Ventures has developed with sports technology leaders across the state, and the technologies that we’re developing right here, whether in Bloomington or Indianapolis, that will have a wide variety of applications.”
A senior advisory council of IU Athletics and IU Ventures leaders has been assembled to guide the initiatives efforts. An important goal of the council will be to engage IU’s global network of more than 760,000 living alumni, many of whom are innovators and entrepreneurs.
“There’s a heightened interest when you can have a conversation with an alum about connecting with IU athletics,” Stephan said. “Our alumni have great affinity and affection for IU athletics … and they’re always eager to find ways in which they can connect with their alma mater. It’s really bringing some of those innovators closer to Indiana University and IU Athletics in a way that helps distinguish Indiana University from other universities across the country.”
About IU Ventures:
IU Ventures invests in and supports IU-affiliated early-stage companies. Its investment programs include the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, IU Angel Network, Shoebox Fund and Innovate Indiana Fund. It further supports IU founders through the Executive in Residence Program and IU Founders and Funders Network. Student support is provided through a variety of engagements, including the new IU Venture Fellows Program. Each program takes unique approaches to accelerate and support the positive impacts that entrepreneurs affiliated with IU already achieve across the world. IU Ventures is a recognized leader in increasing opportunities for diverse and historically underserved entrepreneurs and investing in Indiana startups with a shared commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.