The Nayar Prize is a $1 million-plus prize package established to encourage and challenge Illinois Tech faculty, staff, and students to develop breakthrough, innovative projects that will, within three years, produce meaningful results with a societal impact.
The Story of the Nayar Prize
Madhavan Nayar (M.S. IE ’68) founded Unitech Systems (renamed Infogix, Inc.) in 1982 with his own $500 as capital. Decades later, the company—a pioneer in information integrity software—has evolved into a multimillion-dollar global leader in its field. Nayar’s evolution from engineer to programmer to entrepreneur started at Illinois Tech. In 1966 he was a young graduate student from India looking for a part-time job. A friend told him of an opening in the computer center on campus. It led to his first encounter with a computer—an expensive IBM Mainframe that terrified him. “I didn’t even know how to turn it on, but they paid me $1.60 an hour, so I stayed,” he recalls. “Illinois Tech was the place that launched my interest in software and my career as a high-tech entrepreneur.”
Over the years, Nayar stayed in touch with his alma mater through the Alumni Association. A few meetings with Former President John Anderson and a tour of campus convinced Nayar of the president’s vision for an innovation center. Nayar and his wife, Teresa, made one of the earliest gifts to the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship. Nayar recognized that having Illinois Tech’s brand aligned with innovation has tremendous potential.
Now Nayar, a member of the university’s Board of Trustees and former chair of the School of Applied Technology Board of Advisors, has provided the vision for another project to enhance Illinois Tech’s visibility and innovation brand—the Nayar Prize.
The Nayar Prize provides an unparalleled chance for members of the Illinois Tech community to be recognized for their extraordinary problem-solving abilities—and their passion to make a real difference in our world.
Goals of the Nayar Prize at Illinois Institute of Technology
To establish a prize that will encourage and challenge prospective recipients to undertake breakthrough research and/or innovation projects that will, within three years, produce meaningful results with significant societal impact
To encourage collaborative research among students, faculty, and staff within the university and with external partners possessing or having access to unique subject matter expertise, where appropriate
To gain recognition and visibility for the university and its students, faculty, and staff, both nationally and internationally
Nayar Prize I has already energized the Illinois Tech community and inspired multidisciplinary teams to tackle challenges that require new approaches and fresh perspectives. Fifty-one proposals resulted in three finalists teams announced in October 2015; from those three finalists, one Finalist Team was selected in October 2016 to receive an additional round of funding and to advance to Phase 2 of the competition. Nayar Prize II was launched on March 1, 2016, and three teams were selected for Phase 1 funding in October 2016. From those three finalists, two Finalist Teams were selected in October 2017 to receive an additional round of funding and to advance to Phase 2 of the competition. The Nayar Prize, generously funded by the Nayar Family Foundation, will help Illinois Tech continue to develop meaningful innovation that impacts our communities, our economy, and our environment.