Qcells Expansion Puts Focus on Georgia Tech’s iWorks Program

Offering connects employers and community leaders
with resources to drive economic development success

The good news: Northwest Georgia is slated to get a big economic development boost following a major announcement and planned company expansion that promises to create 3,500 new jobs. The challenge: In this still-tight job market, where’s a company to start?

When the company in question is Dalton-based solar-panel manufacturer Qcells, which has a 1,000-employee Dalton expansion set to begin manufacturing in August and a second expansion bringing 2,500 employees to Bartow County in 2024, a logical place to start is Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Specifically: iWorks.

The organization – technically named Igniting Workforce Opportunities and Reinforcing Knowledge and Skills – operates in Northwest Georgia and launched in 2017 out of former Gov. Nathan Deal’s High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI). That initiative brought together the University System of Georgia, Technical College System of Georgia, K-12 school systems in Georgia, and the private sector to help fill workforce gaps in high demand fields like advanced manufacturing in the northwest part of the state.

Leigh Hopkins, iWorks project manager and CEDR senior project manager

“We see ourselves in a facilitator role making connections,” said Leigh Hopkins, the iWorks project manager and senior project manager for Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR).

iWorks is a program of CEDR, which is housed in the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s comprehensive economic development unit. iWorks is able to connect the dots in Northwest Georgia because CEDR has been working on projects including strategic plans and workforce development there since 2012. For example, iWorks recently sponsored a job fair, where 106 people found employment, including several who went to work at Qcells.

“We also had a webinar in November called After the Ribbon Cutting, that addressed what happens after these big announcements like the one from Qcells are made,” Hopkins said. “How is the community supposed to find people to fill the jobs that are coming?”

It’s an important topic for the region of about 700,000 people, and just one reason the iWorks board includes representatives from local manufacturers such as Qcells, economic and workforce developers, technical college representatives, and others, who work in concert to help deliver a growing and educated workforce to the region. One key to ensuring that new industry and new expansions can be successful.

Candice McKie, CEDR project manager

“iWorks is a trusted partner and conduit in helping our member companies and organizations work together to address common issues,” said Candice McKie, CEDR project manager. “We have the ability to have all of the key players in one room to discuss some of the same shared workforce challenges, and to be able to relay that information to the development authorities, the chambers, and the school systems, instead of having to go to those groups individually.”

Lisa Nash, the senior director of human resources; environmental, health, and safety; and general affairs at Qcells, echoed McKie’s sentiments.

“Being a part of iWorks puts at my fingertips the tools that I need to understand the region,” Nash said, explaining why she is so committed to the organization’s mission. “As an HR professional in this labor market, I have to understand what everyone else is doing. I need to know what other company is expanding, what other company is maybe not doing so well, what’s going to impact our labor market, and what’s happening from a wage perspective.”

iWorks gives her a place to learn all of that in one monthly meeting.

“iWorks understands the industry and they understand this region, and the needs of the business leaders in order to be successful,” Nash said. “Being a part of iWorks gives me a bird’s eye view of what I need or what countermeasures I need to put in place to be prepared for obstacles or challenges.”

While iWorks is many things, it isn’t a problem solver, she said. “They give you the ideas and the connections for you to solve your problems, for you to be able to come up with resources, they connect you with so many resources.”

Some of those resources are the webinars iWorks has facilitated. In addition to After the Ribbon Cutting, the organization as focused on topics such as affordable housing, another key component of a successful workforce, and nontraditional hiring, which includes successful second-chance programs for people who have been released from prison.

“What we hear from manufacturers is that they’re beating their heads against the wall trying to find employees,” said Hopkins. “We’ve found that people who come from a second chance background, people who are really targeted with employment opportunities, are much more successful and the employers are better able to retain them than folks who just fill out an application.”

iWorks also puts together tours of manufacturing facilities, including Qcells, for area high school students, who may not know what they want to do after graduation. “Just getting exposure to industry has been very helpful for the students,” says Hopkins.

Other programs include Be Pro Be Proud, an initiative led by the Cherokee County Office of Economic Development that introduces high school students to a variety of industries through a hands-on mobile lab. iWorks sponsored the mobile workshop’s visits to 10 high schools across the region. “We had a total of 963 students visit the mobile workshop, and 86% of those signed up to receive information and career opportunities that are related to their industry of interest,” said McKie.

iWorks is also working to help expand Project Purpose, a summer program that connects high school students to companies in the area.

The goal of all these programs is to help local companies and those that are moving into the region find the well-trained workforce they need. And while the work just got 3,500 times harder, the iWorks board is excited about the expansion of Qcells.

John Zegers, iWorks board co-chair and GaMEP’s NW Georgia regional manager

“It’s important for our board to stay flexible and fluid,” said John Zegers, co-chair of the iWorks board and Northwest Georgia regional manager for the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership. “That flexibility allows us to move where the need is and where the trends go. I think the makeup of our board is perfect for that, because we’re all on the front lines, we know what’s going on, and we’ll be able to keep our group relevant for what’s needed out there.”

Despite her extremely busy schedule as the Dalton expansion barrels toward August, Nash says she isn’t about to give up her seat on iWorks’ board.

“iWorks is committed to connecting education and the workforce so that we have a sustainable workforce for the future of manufacturing,” she said. “They’re starting younger and younger getting these kids interested in industry. I think iWorks does a really good job of balancing the current workforce and the future workforce.”

Learn more about the science of solar power and ways Georgia Tech researchers are helping build clean energy infrastructure in the state in $2.3B Qcells Solar Power Investment Holds Major Potential for Georgia.

 

Manufacturing Leaders

New executive coaching and team building services from the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership can help firms grow the leaders they need

When a program’s purpose is to help manufacturers improve their performance in the global market, it pays to be on the lookout for solutions to problems as they pop up. The latest solution is executive coaching and team building services from the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP).

Andy Helm, GaMEP senior project manager

“About four years ago, we were developing the organizational excellence assessment, where we would help companies see where their strengths are and where their shortcomings are,” said Andy Helm, a GaMEP senior project manager. “What we found on a regular basis, was that our clients rated themselves and we rated them fairly low in the leadership category. There was this ‘aha’ moment, where we realized if we’re going to help our companies, we need to be able to provide consulting services around leadership.”

This aha moment led GaMEP staff on a journey to evaluate different leadership development methodologies and devise a strategy that would make the most sense for their manufacturing clients.

“We found two education partners who generate, develop, and maintain leadership curriculum,” Helm said. “One is the Gallup organization. The other is Development Dimensions International (DDI). Both of those organizations have been around for decades, they’re research based, and very well respected. We sent a cohort of our employees to both of those companies to get certified as instructors. I’m a DDI certified instructor, and I’m also a Gallup certified coach.”

World-class leadership development combined with expertise in manufacturing, is what sets GaMEP’s training apart for manufacturers.

“Our value-added proposition for our clients is that we are now able to take best-in-class leadership development and combine that with our manufacturing expertise to provide a unique solution for manufacturers,” Helm said. “You can find various leadership services that are excellent, but they don’t have that manufacturing insight that we offer. On the other side, there are a lot of manufacturing experts, but not many of them could claim world-class leadership development offerings. We bring those worlds together.”

The programs offer training for all levels of leaders from frontline managers to the C-suite. HON, the office furniture manufacturer in Cedartown, Georgia, recently took advantage of the new offerings for some of the company’s leadership. The training was so helpful, HON has scheduled two more sessions.

“it’s helped our leaders to get on the same page of how we want to treat our members, how we want to build the culture here,” said Darrell Burns, the member and community relations manager at HON. “We had some of the senior leaders and some mid-level leaders to go through it.”

The feedback was excellent, Burns said. Participants called the program engaging, important, interesting, and even fun. The next sessions will involve both current and future leaders at the company.

“Some of the topics that we teach are communication, coaching, building and sustaining trust, and emotional intelligence,” said Helm.

Emotional intelligence — the ability to manage your own emotions as well as those of your team — is the foundation for much of the new training. Research shows that people with a high level of emotional intelligence are more confident and better able to lead their teams into greater productivity and job satisfaction.

In fact, studies have shown that “emotional intelligence is more important to your success at work than your IQ and your technical skills,” Helm said. “We teach techniques that move the needle.”

Another offering is the CliftonStrengths Assessment, which measures 34 different talents in the areas of strategic thinking, influencing, relationship building, and executing.

“The first benefit of the CliftonStrengths Assessment is self-awareness,” Helm said. “The further along we are in our careers, the fewer surprises we have. If you take this assessment when you’re 25 years into your career, you’re probably going to see a lot of confirmation and say, ‘oh, that makes sense. I agree with this and wish I would have known it sooner in my career.’ In contrast, think of two or three years into your career, you might not know what you wanted to do. This would have been an amazing tool to give you insight into some things that you might want to look into because you’re gifted in certain areas.”

Improving leadership can improve productivity, growth, and the bottom line for manufacturing firms and more. And now, GaMEP has the tools to help do just that.

Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership Receives EPA Pollution Prevention Grant

$350K grant to help Georgia manufacturers reduce pollution and increase efficiency and competitiveness

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s (GaMEP) mission is to enhance the global competitiveness of manufacturers in the state. A new $350,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will help the GaMEP — a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute — do just that for food and beverage manufacturing and metal fabrication and manufacturing. The Pollution Prevention (P2) grant provides funds to train manufacturers in ways to stop pollution before it starts. The project will be a focus of the GaMEP’s Energy & Sustainability Services (ESS) team of engineers. Sandra Enciso, senior sustainability project manager, will lead the project team.

Sandra Enciso, GaMEP’s energy and sustainability project manager

A pollution prevention approach can reduce both financial and environmental costs of doing business. Key P2 practices include green substitution and improving efficiency, two areas firmly in GaMEP’s wheelhouse.

“A big practice is what we call a green substitution,” said Randy Green, GaMEP’s group manager for energy and sustainability. “Let’s say there’s a cleaner or disinfectant they use in the food industry or they’re using it to clean or prep metal. Helping them replace that with a biodegradable, environmentally friendly cleaner or solvent or solution can positively impact the environment.”

A second focus area is efficiency.

“If you can reduce the amount of raw material or other material that you throw away to make one product or reduce the energy it takes to make that product you have less environmental impact,” Green said.

Randy Green, GaMEP’s energy and sustainability group manager

The EPA has five manufacturing-focused national emphasis areas for the P2 program: food and beverage manufacturing and processing; chemical manufacturing, processing, and formulation; automotive manufacturing and maintenance; aerospace product and parts manufacturing and maintenance; and metal manufacturing and fabrication. GaMEP elected to focus on the two chosen emphasis areas for this grant because previous work the group has done in both industries provides insight into the P2 needs of these manufacturers in Georgia.

“We felt like we could have the biggest impact in these areas, because we have the largest potential base of clients,” Green said. And the first step is to reach out to that client base, he added.

“Our first efforts will really be outreach, trying to identify who has expressed interest in participating in this program with us and then to look at where they’re located so we can create some synergy in cohorts,” Green said.

The group will also be trying to reach communities that have suffered environmental injustice.

“The most polluted areas in the country tend to also be in the areas of greater poverty,” Green said. “People in lower income groups are exposed to more toxins and more pollution than people who live in more expensive areas. We must cross-identify where these manufacturers exist in the communities that have the greatest need for pollution reduction.”

Forming groups of manufacturers focused on P2 also helps to ensure the work continues. Green calls it a form of positive peer pressure.

“We can meet as a group and create some collective momentum for doing this, so that people aren’t working on things like this alone,” he said. “I like the analogy of school. If you get your kids in the right peer group, the peer group will create a certain amount of pressure for grades or performance or other things that you’re trying to achieve. It creates some efficiencies, too. We can go once into the region and invite everybody to come together and share information.”

But efficiencies for GaMEP staff aren’t the only benefit — or even the most important one. The benefits to the companies themselves are far greater.

“The general result of P2 work is reduced cost,” Green said. “Manufacturers can also get out of having to keep permits with EPA because they’ve replaced the hazardous chemical with something they don’t have to report. So, there can be fewer issues and costs associated with environmental compliance and better performance.”

It’s important that manufacturers understand the benefits of participation, he said, because it isn’t always clear that there’s an upside to environmental work.

“The EPA has an enforcement component, a little bit like the IRS,” Green said. “They can show up and really cause a lot of grief for a business. But in general, in this program, the EPA is really focused on creating a positive outcome for industry. They recognize that we need jobs, we need manufacturing. But we need them to be as environmentally friendly as they can be.”

Learn more about the Pollution Prevention Cohort Program here.

Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Donna Ennis to Co-lead GA-AIM Project

Long-time Georgia MBDA Business Center director to focus on building community engagement to support artificial intelligence in manufacturing effort

When the Georgia Institute of Technology received a $65 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in September 2022, it was clear that changes would have to be made to support the huge grant.

Donna Ennis, co-lead of GA-AIM

One top-level change involves Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F., who led the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Georgia Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center for 18 years. Now, Ennis will co-direct the Georgia Artificial Intelligence Manufacturing Technology Corridor (GA-AIM), as it implements nine projects around the state that are funded by the record-shattering grant. Aaron Stebner, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering will co-direct GA-AIM with Ennis, and Thomas R. Kurfess, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute will serve as advisor to the project.

GA-AIM will support a statewide initiative to combine artificial intelligence and manufacturing innovations with transformational workforce and outreach. The grant will increase job and wage opportunities in distressed and rural communities and among historically underrepresented and underserved people. The focus on artificial intelligence in manufacturing is interesting to Ennis, who, as the leader of the Georgia MBDA Business Center, launched a national summit for minority-owned manufacturing enterprises in 2016.

“I thought that was an underserved and overlooked area in the minority business community,” she said about the start of the National MBE Manufacturers Summit. “It’s the only summit of its kind. Minority manufacturers and corporations come for matchmaking meetings, education, and to experience new technology.”

Her experience with minority communities, which was recently honored by the Greater South Fulton Chamber of Commerce with its Partnership Award, also dovetails well with her new position, which will focus on community engagement.

“I was focused on minority businesses for years,” Ennis said. “But we have other communities that also need to be served. I’m excited about being able to work with all of our programs within the Enterprise Innovation Institute and some that are not in our group, to figure out how we engage communities from K to gray.”

With so many different audiences and communities to engage, Ennis is charged with creating opportunities that lead to meaningful connections that will truly get folks involved and wanting to participate.

“Donna’s experience building community for the Georgia MBDA Business Center and her knowledge of manufacturing in Georgia made her the obvious choice to co-lead GA-AIM,” said David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “This project is an important step in the equitable development and deployment of innovation and talent in the state. I’m excited to see her moving the project forward for Georgians.”

Ennis’s first mission is to develop a community engagement model that will be used around the state from Atlanta to Augusta to Macon to Southwest Georgia to bring businesses, communities, and people on board. She anticipates a model that can then be replicated for other projects in the future. And that’s just the beginning.

“We’re very entrepreneurial at the Enterprise Innovation Institute,” Ennis said about her enthusiasm for this new project. “We like making something from nothing, and GA-AIM is the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our innovative thinking.”

Engage Celebrates 10th Cohort of Entrepreneurs

Five years after its founding, the first-of-its-kind
innovation program is still going strong

Engage celebrated two milestones – five years since its founding and the introduction of the 10th cohort of enterprise technology startups – in October with its Executive Reception. The reception, held at Cox Enterprises, featured close to 300 people including executives from Fortune 500 companies, startup founders, and investors.

Engage began in 2017 as the first-of-its-kind collaborative innovation program and venture fund to connect startups with leading corporations. It’s a formula that still works today, with active involvement from corporate behemoths including Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot, Invesco, and others that are giving tech entrepreneurs a place at the table.

Discussion by Engage founders, from left, Blake Patton, Marty Flanagan, and G.P. “Bud” Peterson, moderated by Metro Atlanta Chamber President and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick.

To kick off the event, Engage founders and board members Marty Flanagan, president and CEO of Invesco, G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president emeritus of Georgia Tech, and Blake Patton, managing partner of Tech Square Ventures, discussed the program’s origin and the way they deliberately set out to meet the needs of both the tech startups and the corporate community.

“What startups really need is access to customers and markets,” said Patton. “And so that’s what we built the concept of Engage around.”

And the corporations, what do they need that Engage can offer?

They need new ideas and the nimbleness of startups. “I think Engage has done a very nice job of identifying the innovation needs of the companies that are participating and then matching that with the entrepreneurs who are being creative and innovative in the community,” said Patton.

Since its founding, Engage has mentored and invested in 10 startup cohorts, a total of 75 companies. Its portfolio companies have inked 116 customer contracts signed with corporate partners. Engage startups have raised more than $2.7 billion in capital after graduating from the program and employ more than 3,000.

Rachel Carpenter, co-founder and CEO of Intrinio, a financial technology startup from the second Engage cohort, hosted a discussion about enterprise data transformation and ways startups can work with major corporations on that, with Donie Lochan, the managing director, chief technology officer, and global head of technology for Invesco, and Chuck Adkins, senior vice president of information technology at Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).

Keynote speaker Alex Taylor, chair and CEO of Cox Enterprises and Engage Board member, discussed the ways Cox is working with startups. The company has signed 12 contracts with Engage startups, including one with Engage graduate Help Lightning to solve a problem brought on by the pandemic.

“Cox Communications has millions of customers around the country,” Taylor said, explaining that technicians of his company’s cable subsidiary could not go to customers’ homes during the pandemic. In normal times, customers would buy the hardware from Cox and install the television modems and other devices with the technicians’ help.

Now, packets are being sent remotely.

“Not a lot of these people are trained engineers, so they don’t often do it right. When there’s problems, we can’t go into their homes and help them,” Taylor said.

Cox worked with Help Lightning, an Engage portfolio company that uses augmented reality video that enables the cable company to better serve its customers — during the pandemic through today.

“It’s a field services tool. A field services tech is out front of a customer’s home with an iPad. There’s a visual interface, and the customer is holding up the phone, showing the technician what they’re looking at,” Taylor said. “The technician is walking the customer through a two-way interaction when they can’t physically be present.”

Following Taylor, Nammy Vedire, Engage’s director of platform and operations, announced the recipient of the Executive Champion Award, given to corporate partners who exemplify and help accomplish Engage’s mission. The award was presented to Jaimie Clark, head of innovation at Catalyst by Wellstar and the director of innovation and venture strategy for Wellstar Health System.

“Jaimie met with several of our corporate executive teams, understood best practices, and incorporated them into the WellStar Catalyst program, which is this conduit to bring innovation to every corner of the Wellstar Health System,” Vedire said. “In doing so, in the last 12 months, Jaimie has helped five of our startups sign pilots, of which three have now converted to multi-year contracts. That’s an incredible effort.”

Daley Ervin, Engage’s managing director, who was celebrating his last Engage cohort before leaving the position, was also presented with an award to mark his service with Engage since 2018.

To wrap up the evening, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens — a Georgia Tech alum — spoke about his commitment to the city’s tech startup ecosystem. To illustrate the importance of the community, he introduced the city of Atlanta’s first Senior Technology Advisor Donald Beamer.  “He will be an ambassador for this ecosystem that helped catapult Atlanta. He will lift up the startup community and be able to answer the questions of venture capitalists,” Dickens said.

Founders of the cohort 10 companies.

Engage’s cohort 10 companies include:

  • Civic Eagle: Gives policy professionals the tools to more effectively monitor, report, and collaborate on policy work.
  • Coginiti: A collaborative intelligence company that democratizes access to data, fosters collaboration, and supports building, reusing, and sharing data and analytic assets.
  • Manifest Climate: Provides businesses with the tools, data, and support they need to identify climate risks and opportunities, track trends, and build competency around climate action.
  • NameCoach: Uses artificial intelligence-enabled software to solve one problem that can help businesses promote inclusion, belonging, and rapport — name mispronunciation.
  • Qualytics: Delivers confidence in data with real-time automated anomaly detection and remediation to help improve the accuracy of enterprise decision making.
  • Tribute: A micro-mentorship platform enhances team collaboration, learning, and productivity in hybrid workplaces.
  • Workera: This skills intelligence platform is redefining how enterprises understand, develop, and mobilize talent to drive innovation.
  • Wripple: An agency services platform that matches enterprises to individual freelancers and project teams.

About Engage

Engage is a first-of-its-kind innovation platform comprising category-leading corporations in the Southeast that have joined forces to support startups building the future of enterprise. Engage is designed to promote innovation through a network of connections between startups, corporations, university researchers, and the venture community.

Engage’s corporate partners include Chick-fil-A, The Coca-Cola Company, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Tech, Goldman Sachs, The Home Depot, Honeywell Connected Enterprise, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Inspire Brands, Invesco, Invest Georgia, UPS, and Wellstar Health System. These corporate partners, along with Tech Square Ventures and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), provide tools, hands-on support, and resources that help startups develop go-to-market strategies, open doors faster, and transform strategies into action. For more information, visit engage.vc.

Georgia Tech Entrepreneur Pursuing Greener Energy

Sila Nanotechnologies receives $100 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for battery technology

Entrepreneurs and those who support and nurture them must be tenacious visionaries, possessed with the ability to predict the future. Leaders at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s ATDC and VentureLab demonstrate these skills again and again as they select companies for their programs that hold the promise of changing the world.

Gleb Yushin, a professor in the School of Materials and Engineering and co-founder and chief technology officer of Sila

One such company, Sila Nanotechnologies, an engineered materials company focused on improving energy storage, went through the program a decade ago. Still, Gleb Yushin, a professor in the School of Materials and Engineering and co-founder and chief technology officer of Sila, remembers the impact the experience had on his company.

“I wanted to start a business focused on using materials science to make a global impact, but I had no business expertise,” Yushin said. “So, the support and guidance I received from ATDC and VentureLab were remarkably useful for me. They helped instill confidence in me and my vision of building a battery materials company that would dramatically increase Li-ion energy density with silicon anodes and other material technologies.”

The confidence they instilled, plus the mentors who worked with him on the business side – an area way outside his comfort zone at that time – were the most important parts of working with the entrepreneurship programs, he said.

A rendering of Sila’s new Moses Lake facility

Those early interactions – along with years of hard work and top-notch science – paid off in a huge way for Sila. Recently, the company was awarded $100 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The funds, plus private investments, will be used to build out Sila’s new 600,000-square-foot facility in Moses Lake, Washington, where the company will scale manufacturing of its silicon anode materials. Sila anticipates enough production to power 200,000 electric vehicles by 2026.

“It’s so exciting when one of the VentureLab companies makes good,” said Keith McGreggor, director of VentureLab. “It’s why we all do the work we do. Gleb and his partners are changing the world with their battery technology that’s cleaner, less expensive, and more efficient. It’s great to see that rewarded.”

The reward is a result of years of research and work into the science of battery manufacturing, Yushin said.

“We invented a new drop-in battery with replacement silicon-based composite materials that are not only remarkably robust and stable, but also didn’t need to change the way batteries are made. In other words, we made our materials compatible with all the battery manufacturing processes and steps that were used in the past and will likely be used in the future,” Yushin said.

The latest round of funding and the government grant will allow Sila to scale manufacturing and Mercedes-Benz is ready when Sila is. The automaker will use Sila’s anode materials to power its G-Class series electric vehicles, beginning in 2025. The new batteries will deliver a 20% to 40% increase in energy density in their electric vehicles (EVs), which will both increase range and enable faster charges at the same time.

Sila is also working with WHOOP, the health and fitness wearables company, whose devices contain Sila batteries, which deliver roughly a 20% increase in battery energy density with a 33% reduction in device size, he said.

“When working on our anodes, we built the best, most reliant performance solutions to be resilient against supply chain issues,” Yushin said. “The blueprints of Sila’s first auto-scale factory will be used for replicating other silicon-anode material factories in the U.S. and abroad, making the company a major global player in most-advanced green energy technologies. But anode materials are just the beginning. We have a pipeline of other drop-in replacement, supply-chain resilient technologies at different stages of their developments to push the battery performance to new heights.”

About Sila

Founded in 2011, Sila is a next-generation battery materials company with the mission to power the world’s transition to clean energy. Sila shipped the world’s first commercially available silicon anode for lithium-ion batteries in 2021. Sila’s materials drive battery performance enhancements in consumer electronics devices and will power electric vehicles starting with the Mercedes-Benz G-Class series. Committed to American leadership in clean energy production, Sila is scaling its technology at its manufacturing facility in Moses Lake, Washington. Major investors include 8VC, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Coatue, In-Q-Tel, Matrix Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc.

Meet Your New Colleagues

With remote work continuing, it’s often hard to get to know one another, especially for new employees. So, we’re looking for new ways to make connections. Meet this month’s two new employees, Ward Broom and Alberto Ponce. If you run into them or someone else you don’t know at a meeting or on Zoom or Teams, introduce yourself. Work relationships are important to well-being, and this is just one way to help cultivate those relationships.

Ward Broom, Automation & Robotics Catalyst, Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC)

Ward Broom

Ward will oversee the ATDC Automation and Robotics Program — sponsored by Amazon Robotics. He will recruit startups, coach and mentor them, and market the program to those entrepreneurs looking to build and scale technology companies in the robotics or automation sectors.

A triple graduate of Georgia Tech, Ward earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and an Executive MBA. One of his sons is also a Tech grad with degrees in civil engineering and computer science.

He loves golf and travel – especially trips to the North Carolina mountains, where he can indulge both passions. His wife is a writer and his older son graduated from the Citadel and serves in the Army.

Alberto Ponce, Associate Project Manager, Economic Development Lab (EDL)

Alberto Ponce

Alberto will work in the Innovation Ecosystems group to support projects that develop entrepreneurship ecosystems in Latin America and assist with the Soft Landings program that helps foreign companies navigate their way into the U.S. market.

Alberto has experience running entrepreneurship programs and as an entrepreneur himself. Most recently, he served as the innovation center coordinator at the Medical Center of the Americas in El Paso, Texas.

A native of Mexico, Alberto exercises his creativity in his off time. He enjoys reading, watching classic and contemporary films, listening to music, and playing chess.

With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico, Alberto looks forward to working on projects that help enrich communities around the world.

FEMA Awards $1.5 million to Georgia Tech and Alliance Solutions Group to Develop National Climate Resilience Training

The grant supports the creation of curriculum and tools to empower disadvantaged communities and instill equity

ATLANTA — Global climate change is causing an increase in the frequency, severity, and persistence of destructive weather events. These events coupled with economic- and health-related crises have exacerbated disproportionate effects and inequitable outcomes for vulnerable populations.

To help mitigate these outcomes, Georgia Institute of Technology will work with Alliance Solutions Group (ASG) to create a training and education curriculum that fosters partnerships, information sharing, and problem solving among community-based organizations, local and state leaders, first responders, economic development organizations, and emergency managers.

“We are seeing more and more severe weather events, many of them having a disproportionate impact on small and underserved communities in our country,” said David Bridges, vice president of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “This is an opportunity to use our expertise and networks to help communities that have been hit hardest solve this growing crisis.”

Supported by a three-year funding award of $1.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the training will provide community leaders with the tools and resources to develop climate adaptation strategies that will empower disadvantaged communities and instill equity.

“Our needs analysis identified training gaps that compound existing inequities and highlight the need for systemic solutions to improve climate literacy and better integrate underserved populations into all elements of the National Preparedness System,” said Bob Campbell, founder and CEO of ASG. “This education series will support communities around the country in fostering partnerships to develop and implement equitable climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.”

ASG, a Newport News, Virginia-based company that provides innovative emergency management and environmental solutions to the public, private, and defense sectors, is partnering with the Enterprise Innovation Institute and Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the research, development, and delivery of the training.

“I am excited to contribute to these courses on climate resilience with lessons we have learned developing a course at Georgia Tech on using climate information to improve the resilience of coastal communities to sea level rise,” said Alex Robel, assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, who will be part of the team developing content. “Our goal is to disseminate best practices to emergency management agencies around the U.S.”

FEMA developed the grant to further implementation of its goals to instill equity in emergency management and lead the country in climate resilience.

Doreen Kincaid, project manager for the grant

“This is an important opportunity for Georgia Tech to build on its experience with the Smart Sea Level Sensors project in Chatham County that provides real-time information on sea level rise to underserved communities,” said Doreen Kincaid, the project manager on the grant. “It will also allow Georgia Tech and ASG to leverage their partnership and experience on two previous FEMA grants related to hazardous materials and economic recovery to develop and deliver a training program with measurable results.”

National in scope with a mix of virtual and in-person delivery, the training courses will be available in all 50 states, six territories, and 573 Native American communities. In support of the Justice40 Initiative, President Joe Biden’s order to direct 40% of the benefits of federal investments related to climate change and training to disadvantaged communities, the team will prioritize training for those communities. As courses are completed and ready for delivery, they will be posted in FEMA’s National Training and Educational Division online catalogue.

As community leaders complete training, they will be equipped to conduct climate risk and social vulnerability assessments, outline strategies for incorporating vulnerable populations into plans, develop risk communication strategies, establish plans to stabilize community lifelines, and understand and apply climate forecasts into emergency management programs.

About Georgia Tech

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is one of the top public research universities in the U.S., developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its more than 46,000 students, representing 50 states and more than 150 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute

The Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development unit, serves all of Georgia through a variety of services and programs that build and scale startups, grow business enterprises, and energize ecosystem builders. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based economic development organization, the Institute’s expertise and reach are global; its innovation, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem development programs serve governments, universities, nonprofits, and other organizations worldwide. In 2021, the Enterprise Innovation Institute served more than 15,500 businesses, communities, and entrepreneurs. Those clients reported startup investment capital exceeding $1.1 billion and creating or saving more than 11,300 jobs. The Enterprise Innovation Institute’s total 2021 financial impact exceeded $2.9 billion. Learn more at innovate.gatech.edu. 

About School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

The School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, part of the College of Sciences at Georgia Tech, produces breakthrough discoveries through research and prepares students to advance the knowledge of Earth sciences as they become leaders in academia, government, and industry. EAS applies scientific knowledge and principles to inform and support public policy, resource management, and environmental stewardship. The internationally recognized School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences has delivered 15 climate-related courses to more than 5,000 students over the last 10 years.

About Alliance Solutions Group, Inc.

Alliance Solutions Group (ASG) is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that offers emergency management and environmental, health, and safety solutions to all levels of the public, private, and defense sectors. ASG’s team of strategists, thought leaders, subject matter experts, and instructors have an average of 20+ years of experience in their respective fields. In meeting customers’ needs, ASG leverages thousands of lessons learned, best practices and business processes that have been synthesized over 17 years. Having conducted over 15,000 workplace audits and several thousand training and exercise events, ASG has built a solid understanding of the challenges facing both private and public sector organizations in multiple sectors. ASG’s perspective spans from the local to the global, with offices across the U.S. and throughout the world, and partnerships with municipal, state, federal, military, and private sector clients in 48 states and 17 countries. Learn more at asg-inc.org.

About the Federal Emergency Management Agency

At FEMA, we employ more than 20,000 people nationwide. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we have 10 regional offices located across the country. We leverage a tremendous capacity to coordinate within the federal government to make sure America is equipped to prepare for and respond to disasters. Our mission is helping people before, during and after disasters. Our core values and guiding principles help us achieve it. To learn more, visit fema.gov.

Engage Celebrates Five Years of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

First-of-its-kind program connects high-growth startups with Fortune 500 companies

Engage, the first-of-its-kind collaborative innovation program and venture fund, celebrates five years of connecting startups with leading corporations. Engage, an affiliate program of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, combines strategic capital, a startup growth accelerator, Georgia Tech faculty and resources, and a collaborative network of leading global corporations to create a corporate innovation and startup go-to-market accelerator program that has rocketed the Southeast’s emergence as a leading tech hub. Marty Flanagan, president and CEO of Invesco, G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president emeritus of Georgia Tech, and Blake Patton, managing partner of Tech Square Ventures founded the program in 2017. They were joined by nine other founding corporations, including Delta Air Lines, Chik-fil-A, The Home Depot, and UPS.

“As one of the founding corporate partners of Engage, Invesco recognizes the tremendous impact entrepreneurs have on the U.S. economy, and we’re committed to working with the Engage corporate partners to empower their growth in the Southeast region,” said Flanagan. “Through working together with a diverse group of Engage startup founders, we have all benefited from shared innovation, insights into new technology, and invaluable learning opportunities. We look forward to continuing to shape and nurture the growing community of entrepreneurs in Atlanta.”

Blake Patton, managing partner, Tech Square Ventures

Since its founding, Engage has mentored and invested in 10 startup cohorts, a total of 75 companies. Its portfolio companies have inked 116 customer contracts signed with corporate partners. Engage startups have raised more than $2.7 billion in capital after graduating from the program and employ more than 3,000.

“Engage’s aim is to establish Atlanta and the Southeast as the best place in the country for enterprise-focused startups to do business,” said Patton. “Our partners have enabled us to build not only a startup growth accelerator but also an innovation platform that has accelerated corporate innovation and connectivity in the region and helped it to become a premier tech and innovation hub. We are proud that 29 of our startups are headquartered or have team members in Georgia.”

The Engage fund, managed by Tech Square Ventures, invests in companies selected for its Go-To-Market Program. That program, in partnership with Georgia Tech, combines education and one-of-a-kind access to help startups break through the barriers of selling to and partnering with large enterprises.

Engage’s Georgia Tech Faculty Council is comprised of subject matter experts who serve in areas including customer experience, data analytics, supply chain, future of work, and sustainability. They offer advice on which startups should be invited into a cohort and facilitate cross-corporate innovation activities.

“Without a doubt, Engage proves academia can play a significant role in bringing together startups and corporations for innovation,” Raghupathy Sivakumar, the Wayne J. Holman Chair professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the vice president of commercialization and chief commercialization officer for the Institute. “The Engage model of corporate partners, plus startups, plus academia is unparalleled in the country, if not the world. We are actively trying to elevate Engage to even further heights by investing in programs that heavily involve our faculty and students in its activities. We can’t wait to see Engage continue to scale and help propel Georgia Tech as one of the top entrepreneurial universities in the country.”

The support and networking of the Engage program has resulted in tremendous success for Engage companies. Highlights include:

  • The Mom Project, a marketplace connecting enterprises with working mothers, reached 1 million mothers.
  • Moth + Flame, a developer of virtual training technology, appeared on the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.
  • Cloverly, an application programming interface (API) that matches digital transactions to equivalent carbon removal, making transactions carbon neutral in real time.
  • Verusen, an AI platform to harmonize materials data and predict inventory in manufacturing supply chains.
  • MetaCX, a network that companies join to manage the expected value from their business, raised a round of $5.1 million, comprised of 14 angel investors, bringing the total capital raised by the company to $33.6 million.
Rachel Carpenter, co-founder and CEO of Intrinio

Rachel Carpenter, co-founder and CEO of Intrinio, a financial technology company and member of the second cohort, would encourage startup leaders who get the chance to go through the Engage program.

“You will receive unprecedented access to some of the largest strategic institutions in the world. We were in one of the early cohorts, and we’re still connected with executives at Intercontinental Exchange, and Invesco, and Goldman Sachs,” she said. “There’s this deep spirit of collaboration. They don’t forget about you and your cohort overnight. They still know who you are, what your technology is, and sometimes years later they come back and re-open the door for you. So doing the program is not just a short-term value. It’s long-term relationships that you’re establishing.”

Despite the success of the last five years, Engage isn’t content to rest on its laurels. Engage looks to expand in the next five years – and beyond, Patton said, into new verticals, while continuing to support its growing portfolio of companies.

About Engage

Engage is a first-of-its-kind innovation platform comprising category-leading corporations in the southeastern United States that have joined forces to support startups and build the future of enterprise. Engage is designed to promote innovation through a network of connections between startups, corporations, university researchers, and the venture community. Engage’s corporate partners include Chick-fil-A, The Coca-Cola Company, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Tech, Goldman Sachs, The Home Depot, Honeywell Connected Enterprise, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Inspire Brands, Invesco, Invest Georgia, UPS, and Wellstar Health System. These corporate partners, along with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) and Tech Square Ventures, provide tools, hands-on support and resources that help startups develop go-to-market strategies, open doors faster and transform strategies into action.  For more information, visit engage.vc.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Awards Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership Grant to Address Food Safety

Grant to be used to train food and beverage entrepreneurs in underserved communities in best practices

The pandemic upended the food and beverage industries in ways that are just coming to light, such as the destruction of the peer and mentoring networks new entrepreneurs rely on to learn how to grow their businesses from basement to production.

To help rebuild those essential learning networks and revive some of the training they once offered, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded a three-year, $550,000 grant to Georgia Tech’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP).

GaMEP, housed in the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, will train food industry entrepreneurs in Georgia and the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico in food safety practices and regulations. The grant funding will also be used to train the trainers, which will help rebuild those critical networks.

This is the largest sponsored grant the Enterprise Innovation Institute has received from USDA, marking the importance of the food sector in Georgia.

“The food manufacturing industry is a focus area for GaMEP, as it is the largest manufacturing industry sector in Georgia,” said GaMEP Director Tim Israel. “We have increased our food-industry specific services significantly over the past five years, and this grant will allow us to expand our reach to serve more small and underserved companies to coach them on safe and efficient production processes that will help them grow.”

Expanding GaMEP’s reach to minority and underserved populations is an essential element of the grant.

“The purpose of this grant is to provide free — and this was really important to us — free food-safety training,” said Wendy White, industry manager, food safety and quality, at GaMEP and grant manager. “We’re also coupling that with business development training.”

The training will be focused on entrepreneurs in underserved communities in metro Atlanta, Middle and South Georgia, and Puerto Rico, all areas that have experienced a lot of growth in the food sector.

“Puerto Rico has this amazing cultural heritage around food. Because it is an island, they have concerns about food sovereignty — that is, making enough food to support themselves,” said Brandy Nagel, co-manager on the grant and program manager in the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center at the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “Part of why we’re including Puerto Rico in this grant is to build capacity on the island for food entrepreneurs to be safe and to scale up their businesses so that they can be successful and profitable.”

Grant partners Fort Valley State University, in Middle Georgia, and PRiMEX, the MEP center in Puerto Rico, will work with GaMEP to reach entrepreneurs in their regions.

The grant also includes funding for capacity building, in the form of train-the-trainer education in the three regions. “Our trainers will continue to disseminate this information to their communities after we’re gone,” White said. “What’s exciting about that is that it will continue to have impact for years to come as more entrepreneurs get this training, which will only serve to strengthen the ecosystem.”

Learn more about GaMEP’s commitment to food manufacturing companies in minority and underserved communities in this video.

About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)
The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, whose purpose is to help manufacturers improve their performance in the global market. GaMEP offers coaching and training in operational excellence, technology implementation, leadership and strategy, marketing, energy management, and sustainability, to manufacturers across the state to help increase top-line growth, reduce bottom-line costs, and boost the economic well-being of Georgia. GaMEP is part of the MEP National Network, a unique public-private partnership that delivers comprehensive, proven solutions to U.S. manufacturers, fueling growth and advancing U.S. manufacturing. To learn more, visit gamep.org.

About the Georgia MBDA Business Center
As part of a national network of 64 centers and special projects funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the Georgia MBDA Business Center helps minority business enterprises (MBEs) obtain capital, access markets and business opportunities domestically and globally, increase profitability, and scale operations. By providing technical assistance, coaching, education, and contacts, the center has helped MBEs create more than 7,000 jobs, and achieve nearly $6.4 billion in contracts and finance, while remaining competitive economic engines in their respective markets. To learn more, visit georgiambdabusinesscenter.org

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute
The Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development unit, serves all of Georgia through a variety of services and programs that build and scale startups, grow business enterprises, and energize ecosystem builders. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based economic development organization, the Institute’s expertise and reach are global; its innovation, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem development programs serve governments, universities, nonprofits, and other organizations worldwide. In 2021, the Enterprise Innovation Institute served more than 15,500 businesses, communities, and entrepreneurs. Those clients reported startup investment capital exceeding $1.1 billion and creating or saving more than 11,300 jobs. The Enterprise Innovation Institute’s total 2021 financial impact exceeded $2.9 billion. Learn more at innovate.gatech.edu.