ATDC companies raise $280.2 million in investments in 2023

Team Shot Slip Robotics
Employees of Slip Robotics. The Norcross, Georgia-based ATDC portfolio company raised $11 million in 2023. (PHOTO: Erin McDuff/McDuff Photography)

Startups in the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) current portfolio raised more than $280.2 million in investment capital and created or saved more 2,021 jobs in 2023.

While the investment capital raised was down from the $305.7 million ATDC’s active portfolio companies raised in 2022, it mirrors the prevailing trend across the investment landscape, said Caroline Ford, investor relations manager at ATDC, a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

“As expected, deal raise and deal volume for Georgia are down in all stages of venture capital,” Ford said, “but we are stable and holding our own relative to the past 5 years in terms of percent of deals done and percent of all capital raised among Georgia’s early-stage tech companies.”

Still, ATDC companies accounted for a large slice of the investment deals under $12 million that were done in 2023.

“While deal volume and deal amounts were weaker across tech companies raising venture capital in 2023, we are pleased that ATDC companies continued to account for about 18 percent of all reported deals done under $12 million for tech or tech-enabled businesses,” ATDC Director John Avery said. “This figure is consistent with the aggregate activity in Georgia from our companies.”

Among select deal highlights in 2023:

  • ATDC portfolio company Slip Robotics raised $11 millionFounded in 2020, Slip Robotics, whose clients include Nissan, John Deere, and Valeo, is a developer of robotic trailer technology designed to simplify the loading and unloading process of trucks.
  • Layr, a 2022 ATDC graduate, an insurance technology business that builds software to automate and digitize insurance brokerages’ small business departments, closed on an oversubscribed $10 million round.
  • Kayhan Space, a leading provider of high-performance software and solutions for space mission operations, raised $7 million in an oversubscribed seed extension round.  The company is scaling quickly as it accelerates the commercial delivery of the industry’s first autonomous space traffic coordination (STC) framework, Pathfinder™ 3.0.

There were other bright spots in ATDC’s overall 2023 results, too.

When ATDC’s graduate companies are included with the incubator’s current startup portfolio, more than $6.2 billion in investment capital was raised in 2023, up nearly 8% from the $5.7 billion reported in 2022.

What’s more, ATDC’s current portfolio and graduate companies recorded revenue of $2.43 billion in 2023 — up nearly 54% from the $1.58 billion they reported in 2022.

“Traditionally, our companies stay in business after graduating from the portfolio and will typically go on to raise later rounds of capital, bringing jobs and economic activity to the Georgia economy as they scale,” Avery said.

Greenlight, a 2018 ATDC graduate is one example, he said. The ATDC-born financial technology startup behind smart debit cards for parents monitoring their children’s spending, reached unicorn status in 2020, is now valued at $2.3 billion, and employs 515.

ATDC companies are also more likely to be acquired than their Georgia peers as evidenced with the acquisition of Medxoom, a 2023 ATDC graduate and healthcare financing platform, which was acquired by Allied Health that same year.

Jobs were also a highlight in 2023 in the incubator’s ecosystem. ATDC’s current and graduate companies reported saving or creating 14,770 jobs in 2023, up from 11,793 in 2022.

Nakia Melecio to lead Innovation Lab effort at Enterprise Innovation Institute

Headshot off Nakia Melecio.
Nakia Melecio head’s Innovation Lab at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. (PHOTO: Péralte Paul)

Nakia Melecio, senior research faculty and director of the Center for MedTech Excellence at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, will lead a new effort focused on economic development support for life science companies and bioscience commercialization and ecosystem building.

Melecio, who has also served as the deep tech catalyst in the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s ATDC startup incubator, will lead Innovation Lab, which encompasses new business development efforts in the life sciences and biosciences sectors. It will also include his current program work and the Innovation Lab initiative centers on three core activities:

  • Grow healthcare research, innovation, and workforce development practice
  • Expand EI2 Global’s international footprint
  • Support VentureLab’s National Science Foundation I-Corps activities

“Nakia has been instrumental in helping to expand Georgia’s life sciences community and ecosystem,” said David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, which serves as Georgia Tech’s chief economic development arm. “Leading Innovation Lab already builds on a foundation he created since joining us in 2019 and further supports our broad economic development mission.”

He’s already leading in the healthcare research practice expansion with his work in with the MedTech Center and running the ScaleUp Lab Program for deep tech innovation.

Under Melecio’s leadership as founding director, the MedTech Center, which has the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Global Center for Medical Innovation as partners, has worked with and evaluated the innovations of more than 200 companies. Since launching in 2021, the MedTech Center’s 66 active startups have raised $13.1 million in investment capital and an additional $6.4 million in federal, non-dilutive funding grants.

In 2023 the MedTech Center was selected to join the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health’s ARPA-H Investor Catalyst Hub to accelerate the commercialization of practical, accessible biomedical solutions.

He is supporting Georgia Tech’s efforts to collaborate with Atlanta University Center schools — Spelman College, Clark-Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and the Morehouse School of Medicine — to collaborate with those minority serving institutions as they build out capacity for their scientists and researchers to create more life sciences technology companies, following an award from the Economic Development Administration.

Similarly, Melecio is working with the University of Alabama at Birmingham in a collaborative project in the biologics and medical device areas to move more of its researchers’ innovations out of the lab and into commercial markets.

As Innovation Lab lead, Melecio, who has secured more than $5.76 million in federal grants and awards to Georgia Tech, will also work to develop biomanufacturing partnerships for Georgia Tech.

With EI2 Global, the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s program that fosters economic opportunity through collaborations with universities, innovators, governments, and nonprofit organizations worldwide, Melecio will serve as an instructor on Lab-to-Market and CREATE-X programming for entrepreneurs. He will also create and provide educational content for EI2 Global’s university and ecosystem partners.

More regionally, his Innovation Lab work includes ongoing projects as a principal in VentureLab, a program of Georgia Tech’s Office of Commercialization. In that capacity, he will work on VentureLab’s National Science Foundation-related Innovation Corps (I-Corps) programming. Those efforts, overseen by Commercialization Vice President Raghupathy “Siva” Sivakumar, includes the NSF I-Corps Hub Academy where Melecio will serve as director.

“Our efforts with Innovation Lab are really centered around finding new opportunities, new markets, and new industries by leveraging our areas of expertise at the Enterprise Innovation Institute and Georgia Tech to build economic development capacity in the life sciences and biosciences space,” Melecio said.

“We’re looking to take a broader perspective away from being hyper focused in one or two niche areas in life sciences to ensure that we maximize opportunities to support new ideas, build stronger practice areas in this space, and secure funding to bring those innovations to scale.”

Georgia Tech Delegation Advancing Partnerships with India

David Bridges, Bernard Kippelen, Devesh Ranjan, and Shreyes Melkote visiting Raj Ghat in India.

The Georgia Institute of Technology sent a small delegation to India April 8-12 for the purpose of strengthening existing and building new collaborative opportunities in the fields of research, education, and economic development.

The team was comprised of Bernard Kippelen, vice provost for International Initiatives and Steven A. Denning Chair for Global Engagement; Devesh Ranjan, Eugene C. Gwaltney, Jr. School Chair in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; Shreyes Melkote, Morris M. Bryan Jr. Professor of Mechanical Engineering and executive director of the Novelis Innovation Hub at Georgia Tech; and David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Over the course of the week, they met with representatives of the Indian government, leadership at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai and New Delhi, and an array of private-sector companies ranging from startups to corporations, including the Aditya Birla Group, which is associated with the Birla Institute of Technology and Science at Pilani and Hyderabad and is the parent company of Novelis Inc., which is headquartered in Atlanta.

A number of factors make the country a promising candidate for future collaborative projects with Georgia Tech. Among them are an increase in onshore manufacturing, government education and research strategies that support further development of talent and innovation, a large potential for creation of workforce training programs, and an openness to alliances between business and public interests.

In addition to observing a growth mindset among those they encountered in government, university, and corporate contexts, the Georgia Tech group also noticed an overall receptivity to engagement with top-tier U.S. universities, especially engineering and medical schools.

“Looking at the number of undergraduates coming from India to study in the U.S., I believe it’s the right time to invest in our relationship with India,” said Ranjan. “The growth in the country in the last 10 years is unlike anything I’ve seen before. When the economy goes up, so does the desire for higher education.”

Indeed, higher education was central to the group’s itinerary. For Kippelen, one trip highlight was an “inspiring” visit to New Delhi, where he and fellow Georgia Tech delegates “had a productive time and stimulating discussions” with representatives from India’s Department of Higher Education, the University Grants Commission, and the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India.

Ranjan acknowledged the strong value India places on education and tied that ethos, in part, to the historical influence of Gandhi. “A memorable moment of our trip to India was visiting Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. My colleagues were able to learn more about him and how he pushed kids toward an educated society,” Ranjan said, adding, “Anyone who goes to India usually begins their visit by paying homage to the Father of the Nation.”

Across a range of institutions, the visiting cohort took opportunities to engage with Georgia Tech graduates, who were enthusiastic about strengthening ties to their alma mater and more than willing to facilitate fruitful connections to further the cohort’s discovery mission.

“I was most impressed by the Georgia Tech alumni,” said Bridges, citing “how supportive they were of us coming to India and how committed they were to being part of a successful collaboration. The alumni network there was just phenomenal.”

Melkote especially appreciated the warm welcome extended to the team by government officials and IIT faculty and leadership at the New Delhi and Mumbai campuses, as well as the overall eagerness to establish and further strengthen relationships with Georgia Tech.

He recalled the Georgia Tech cohort’s meetings with the Aditya Birla Group — a $65 billion global conglomerate with a wide range of holdings worldwide — and the leadership of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science at Pilani and Hyderabad, characterizing these encounters as “very enlightening.”

Said Melkote, “It is clear to me that we have a number of opportunities for expanding Georgia Tech’s impact in India through academic, research, and economic development initiatives.”

Eric Morrissette Visits Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute

The Georgia MBDA Business Center (Georgia MBC) recently hosted Eric Morrissette, acting under secretary of commerce for minority business development, U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), for a site visit to the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) on April 22, 2024. Morrissette was there to demonstrate MBDA’s commitment to EI2 and Georgia MBC, which, as a federal funding agency, delivers value and support to Georgia MBC clients.

Morrissette was welcomed by David Bridges, vice president of EI2, the country’s oldest, largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development. After Morrissette briefly introduced himself and his work, Bridges detailed the organization’s intent.

“Everyone who works at EI2 came here for a reason: to help people lift themselves up,” he said. “We are capacity builders; we want to be here to transfer knowledge to you. We are about economic opportunity for all,” he added, before launching a presentation that detailed the various components of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, as well as the Georgia MBC’s place within it. Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Georgia MBC helps businesses access capital, increase profitability, and scale their businesses.

Donna Ennis, EI2’s director of community engagement and program development and the Center’s operator representative, spoke further on the Georgia MBC, while acknowledging the Southeast MBDA Business Growth Hub, stakeholders and strategic alliances, including program sponsors Ebco, Georgia Power Foundation, and Trane Technologies.

Ennis is also co-director of the Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia AIM), which works to drive adoption of AI in U.S. manufacturing, and she noted the ways in which that program dovetails with MBDA’s mission. Due to funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), Georgia AIM is reaching Georgia residents who are historically underrepresented in manufacturing. In addition, Ennis said, “We are always looking for gaps in the technological ecosystem and how we can fill [them].”

Jennifer Pasley, Georgia MBDA Business Center project director opened the floor for testimonials from clients, before Ennis initiated a general discussion where participants shared questions, concerns, and insights with Morrissette. Representatives from Southern Company, Atlanta Business League, Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Georgia Supplier Development Council discussed the challenges facing businesses owned by socially and/or economically disadvantaged individuals (SEDIs). Georgia MBDA Center clients DoverStaffing/DoverSolutions, eSpin Technologies, Freeing Returns, IBEX, RYSE Creative Village, and The Royster Group shared their companies’ journeys to success with the Center’s assistance and the challenges they faced along the way including access to capital and opportunities.

Said Morrissette of his office’s mission, “I have the best job, because it is to create wealth in communities around this country. It’s allowing people to penetrate markets that haven’t been penetrated before, allowing them to realize their dreams and hopes in business. No part of my mandate [is] to just give out things. It’s allowing people who want something to better seize it … and my job is to show them how, through our networks.”

Communities Changing Lives

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership) at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute has been using its Community Research Grant program to help Georgia communities with innovative technology-based projects that improve the lives of residents and visitors since 2020. In Warner Robins, crime has been reduced thanks to a digital twin project. In Columbus, the Chattahoochee River is safer for swimmers and boaters because of another digital twin application. In Valdosta, first responders now make it across town much more quickly, saving lives and property.

The Community Research program is a competitive grant process that supports teams of university researchers and local governments by providing funding, expert advice, program management, access to the Partnership’s Summer Internship Program, and a network of peers, on year-long pilot projects. Alumni cities and counties have successfully implemented projects and garnered additional funding and technical assistance to continue serving residents and meet community goals. Projects have also achieved national and international recognition and served as models for communities addressing similar problems.

This year’s Community Research projects, which are at the halfway point, have the potential to positively impact lives in equally important ways for Georgians in Atlanta, Brunswick, Milledgeville, and Statesboro. Recently, project leaders presented information on progress, challenges, and lessons learned to date.

Atlanta: Active Transportation

Sensors on the back of bikes help researchers in Atlanta

Across the city of Atlanta scooter drivers, pedestrians, and wheelchair users take their lives into their own hands — or into the hands of distracted drivers — every day. Atlanta’s project seeks to make roads safer for all users by studying transportation issues in four neighborhoods: Grove Park and Cascade II, on the westside, and South Boulevard and East Atlanta, in the city’s southeastern quadrant.

The goals of the Atlanta project — a collaborative effort that includes the City of Atlanta Department of Transportation (DOT), MARTA, Propel ATL, Georgia State University’s Micromobility Lab, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s College of Engineering — are to develop policies and initiatives that incorporate smart transportation technology and contribute to a cleaner, safer, and a more connected Atlanta.

Fei Li, of Georgia State University’s Urban Institute, is the project lead and presented at the event. To achieve the project goals, Li laid out the objectives of the group’s research: to understand the barriers to active transportation — which she defined as “human powered. So that may include walking, biking, or rolling, like scooters.”

Using a multi-pronged approach to get at the information needed, the research team will do neighborhood surveys; assess the current physical infrastructure, including sidewalks, bike racks, and more; track activity; and monitor air pollution in the project neighborhoods.

To date, data has been collected from light detection and ranging (LiDAR) equipment mounted to cars to map the neighborhoods; 25 students have canvassed 24 blocks to recruit participants and administer surveys; and 3 Fitbits and 2 Airbeams have been deployed to track individual residents’ physical activities and exposure to air pollution.

Working with DOT, the project has identified low-hanging fruit that can help improve mobility and safety. Locations for micromobility (bikes, scooters) device parking corrals have been scouted, which will not only keep parked devices off sidewalks and streets, but will also make the streets safer for pedestrians.

“We’re calling these quick builds,” said Ashley Finch, the Atlanta DOT’s shared micromobility coordinator, “because it’s things that we’re able to do in house, with our in-house maintenance crews and materials that we keep in our warehouses.”

Going forward, the team will continue to build community support for the project and seek additional funding to expand the project and implement the findings that will create safer neighborhoods for all.

Brunswick: Safe Water Together

Citizen scientists learn to test water

Brunswick and Glynn County on the coast of Georgia are home to beautiful marsh lands, historic sites, and popular beaches. The region is also home to four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites — areas of toxic, hazardous waste that can leach into the ground and the water – that are being cleaned by federal Superfund dollars with the goal of returning them to productive use.

The Safe Water Together project focuses on addressing these and other environmental health and justice issues in a region with socio-economic disparities.

“Toxic waste pollution is significantly impacting human health on our coastline,” said Asli Aslan, project lead, associate professor of environmental health sciences, and director of the Institute for Water and Health at Georgia Southern University. “One in every six Americans lives within a mile of a toxic waste site, and nearly 30% of those are minorities. Brunswick is specifically important in that sense because they have four of those [Superfund sites] and other hazardous waste sites as well.”

The polluted areas threaten rivers, ecosystems, water supplies, air quality, food supplies, and, ultimately, the health of residents.

A collaboration with Rebuilding Together Glynn County, the local school system, Georgia Southern University, and Georgia Tech, the project aims to develop solutions based on community experiences and scientific data. By utilizing advanced water quality detection technology, the initiative targets microbial and chemical contamination exacerbated by sea-level rise.

Working with 12 pastors in the Black and Brown communities of Brunswick, researchers have assembled a group of citizen scientists that will help measure the chemicals in water and determine community needs.

“One of the objectives for this grant is to build the foundations of a community-led citizen science group,” Aslan said. “Working with community leaders is extremely important for us because those are the liaisons that will be spreading the word, creating more awareness, and increasing perceptions and knowledge in the area about what these toxic chemicals may do for health for the communities. The other objective is to identify and disseminate [information about] existing water and health hazards by looking at the data. It’s not like a research presentation, but really taking this to the communities and working with them to see what that data means for them and how they can use it.”

To meet these objectives, the research team is setting up a water quality lab in Brunswick that will be owned by the citizens. The team will train the citizen science group to collect field samples, assess them, and develop protocols for ensuring the data is collected properly. The team will also work with citizens on creating outreach and education materials.

The project team has been approached by other universities and local governments for information about how to set up a community approach to improving water quality.

Ultimately, this endeavor seeks to improve water quality, address environmental disparities, and contribute to long-term solutions for a more sustainable and just community in Brunswick and Glynn County.

Milledgeville: Workforce Development Study in Solar Technology and Eco-entrepreneurship

A solar class meets

As technology changes, so do the skills needed to deploy those technologies. Nowhere is this more evident that in the shift around the world to green energy. Often the people left behind by these technology shifts are those who can’t afford or don’t have access to the training they need to work in a new sector.

To help combat the lack of trained solar technicians in Middle Georgia, the city of Milledgeville is working with researchers from Georgia College & State University’s (GCSU) Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Education, as well as Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. That consortium of researchers aims to launch a no-cost certificate program in solar power systems combined with business education for aspiring entrepreneurs in the green energy sector. The program is making a special effort at recruiting disadvantaged and underserved individuals. The program aims to address the lack of accessible certification options in the middle and south regions of Georgia.

Hasitha Mahabaduge, associate professor of physics at GCSU, presented the project for the team.

“We, like most of rural Georgia, have seen our share of economic hardship,” Mahabaduge said. “We at Georgia College came together and discussed that we could use some of our expertise to help the city of Milledgeville to reverse the trend of this economic hardship. It would be a win-win situation for all of us.”

In addition to teaching people how to install solar panels, they are taking the training a step further, teaching participants how to create and manage their own business in the solar energy industry.

The certification course in solar energy and eco-entrepreneurship is free to all participants. The team has scheduled four cohorts of 10 students each for the classes, with people coming from as far as three hours away for the training.

In addition to training people for a new industry, researchers are looking at the economic impact of the program on the community and measuring attitude changes related to green energy by the participants. At the end of the four cohorts, students will be certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, the established certification organization in the field of renewable energy. Finally, all the students from all cohorts will come together to install a solar project for the city of Milledgeville.

“We are teaching the basic physics engineering aspects of working in the solar field,” Mahabaduge said. “On top of that, we are providing them with the tools to not only work for someone else, but to start their own business.”

The project has received media coverage in Middle Georgia, which has resulted in a waiting list of more than 150 potential students. By providing hands-on experience and relevant skills, the project strives to build a sustainable, eco-conscious workforce and economy.

Statesboro: Improving Indoor Air Quality

Measuring air quality

Live, green plants do more than brighten a drab office. They can also help to improve air quality, making spaces healthier and more comfortable for the people who work in them. But how much can plants help with odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in older, government-owned buildings? That’s the question a pilot project in Statesboro is working to answer.

“We are spending most of our time indoors, but unfortunately, the current national regulatory standards are not protecting indoor environments,” said Atin Adhikari, associate professor of environmental health sciences at Georgia Southern University.

In an office building there may be many indoor air pollution sources, including housekeeping practices, dirty ventilation systems, and water damage, which can create health problems for office workers.

“Unlike in our home environments, office workers may not have adequate resources for changing their indoor air quality,” Adhikari said. “In this project we are focusing on the application of indoor plants, which can be used for absorbing different types of gases. It’s not a new concept. NASA and some other laboratories already did laboratory experiments. But nobody applied the simple, green, and cost-effective approach in office environments.”

The project measured VOC levels in 16 public buildings in Bullock County, from office buildings to city hall to a fire station. For the study, six buildings were selected. Three are control buildings and three buildings had plants added. Students collect data at the buildings and care for the plants, which include bamboo, rubber plants, and areca palms, plants that have been shown to absorb toxins from the air.

An initial round of data was collected before the plants were added. After reviewing that data and measuring both data and perception of employees following the plant installation, the pilot project will wrap up.

“We will conduct statistical testing to determine the impact of the implant intervention on indoor air quality and parse it into the air quality,” Adhikari said.

The City of Statesboro is partnering with a multidisciplinary research team from Georgia Southern University and Fayetteville State University, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to look at  both objective sensor data and subjective perceptions of employees on air quality before and after intervention.

The study involves active engagement with stakeholders, including students, administrators, and city employees and aims to improve indoor air quality for city employees and the larger local population, offering scalability potential, and serving as a reference for similar areas on indoor air quality evaluation and intervention.

Jenny Houlroyd Earns Doctor of Public Health Degree

 

Jenny Houlroyd, CIH, MSPH, DrPH

Jenny Houlroyd, an occupational health group manager for the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) Program, successfully defended her dissertation in March 2024 to complete a doctorate in public health (DrPH) from the University of Georgia. Her degree is from the College of Public Health in public health policy and management. Graduation is scheduled for May 10. The SHES program is part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Prior to joining Georgia Tech in 2005, Houlroyd earned a dual master of science in public health (MSPH) from Emory University, focusing on epidemiology and environmental and occupational health. As a certified industrial hygienist with the OSHA 21(d) Consultation Program, she helps small Georgia businesses ensure that workplaces are hazard-free and workers are protected from potential health threats.

She also serves as faculty for the OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) at Georgia Tech and for the professional master’s in Occupational Safety and Health program for the School of Building Construction within the College of Design.

“My dissertation was on respiratory protection,” said Houlroyd. “In health and safety, we follow a hierarchy of controls, and the last layer of defense is personal protective equipment (PPE).”

Respiratory safety ranks consistently among the top ten concerns of OSHA, and Houlroyd conducted a qualitative study focusing on the manufacturing sector. Through the process of exploring elements that might contribute to a worker’s reluctance to wear PPE, she developed what she calls the FACT model, which tracks fit, acceptance of risk, comfort, and type of respirator.

Houlroyd views her doctor of public health degree as an achievement that not only enhances her own skill set but also benefits colleagues and contributes to the greater good. “I’m really hoping that it helps my entire team open doors, to apply for more competitive grants and make connections with other research groups,” she said. “I really see it as essential for our team to have this kind of expertise in-house.”

Those doors are already opening. On May 16, Houlroyd is attending the conference Preventing Silicosis – An Ancient Disease in Modern Times: Silicosis Caused by Artificial Stone in the U.S., hosted by the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at University of California, Los Angeles, where she has been invited to speak on exposure and control technologies. “My doctoral program includes leadership training, and it gave me the confidence to speak up about issues that are important to me,” she said.

“At the Enterprise Innovation Institute, we are committed to making workplaces healthier and safer,” Houlroyd added. “We want people to go home from work to their families in the same or better shape than when they left. My dad got sick with brain cancer from exposure on the job; he died two years ago. I really do see it as a personal mission. We are saving lives.”

David Bridges Receives Fulbright Specialist Award to Slovak Republic at Digital Coalition

David Bridges.

The U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board are pleased to announce that David Bridges, vice president of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, has received a Fulbright Specialist Program award.

Bridges, who was named Fulbright Specialist in February of 2024,  will complete a project at Digital Coalition in Slovak Republic that aims to exchange knowledge and establish partnerships benefiting participants, institutions, and communities both in the U.S. and overseas through a variety of educational and training activities within Public Administration.

Bridges is one of over 400 U.S. citizens who share expertise with host institutions abroad through the Fulbright Specialist Program each year. Recipients of Fulbright Specialist awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, demonstrated leadership in their field, and their potential to foster long-term cooperation between institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Fulbrighters address critical global issues in all disciplines, while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 60 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 88 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 39 who have served as a head of state or government.

For further information about the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State, please visit eca.state.gov/fulbright or contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Press Office by telephone 202.632.6452 or e-mail eca-press@state.gov.

Savannah Congressman Tours Georgia Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility

Visit includes overview of Georgia AIM project

When U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter from Georgia’s 1st District visited Atlanta recently, one of his top priorities was meeting with the experts at Georgia Tech’s 20,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility (AMPF).

Carter was recently named the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s chair of the Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee, a group that concerns itself primarily with contamination of soil, air, noise, and water, as well as emergency environmental response, whether physical or cybersecurity.

Because AMPF’s focus dovetails with subcommittee interests, the facility was a fitting stop for Carter, who was welcomed for an afternoon tour and series of live demonstrations. Programs within Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute — specifically the Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia AIM) and Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) — were well represented.

“Innovation is extremely important,” Carter said during his April 1 visit. “In order to handle some of our problems, we’ve got to have adaptation, mitigation, and innovation. I’ve always said that the greatest innovators, the greatest scientists in the world, are right here in the United States. I’m so proud of Georgia Tech and what they do for our state and for our nation.”

Three people in a room
Michael Barker (right), GaMEP project manager for cybersecurity, strategy, and leadership development, speaks as U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (left) and Andrew Krejci (center), another GaMEP project manager, listen. (PHOTO: Chris Ruggiero)

Carter’s AMPF visit began with an introduction by Tom Kurfess, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute; Steven Ferguson, principal research scientist and managing director at Georgia AIM; research engineer Kyle Saleeby; and Donna Ennis, the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s director of community engagement and program development, and co-director of Georgia AIM.

Ennis provided an overview of Georgia AIM, while Ferguson spoke on the Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium and Kurfess detailed the AMPF origin story, before introducing four live demonstrations.

The first of these featured Chuck Easley, Professor of the Practice in the Scheller College of Business, who elaborated on supply chain issues. Afterward Alan Burl of EPICS: Enhanced Preparation for Intelligent Cybermanufacturing Systems and mechanical engineer Melissa Foley led a brief information session on hybrid turbine blade repair.

Finally, GaMEP project manager Michael Barker expounded on GaMEP’s cybersecurity services, and Deryk Stoops of Central Georgia Technical College detailed the Georgia AIM-sponsored AI robotics training program at the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource (VECTR) Center, which offers training and assistance to those making the transition from military to civilian life.

The topic of artificial intelligence, in all its subtlety and nuance, was of particular interest to Carter.

“AI is the buzz in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Whether it be healthcare, energy [or] science, we on the Energy and Commerce Committee look at it from a sense [that there’s] a very delicate balance, and we understand the responsibility. But we want to try to benefit from this as much as we can.”

He continued: “I heard something today I haven’t heard before, and that is instead of calling it artificial intelligence, we refer to it as ‘augmented intelligence.’ I think that’s a great term, and certainly something I’m going to take back to Washington with me.”

Said Ennis, “It was a pleasure to host Rep. Carter for a firsthand look at AMPF, which is uniquely positioned to offer businesses the opportunity to collaborate with Georgia Tech researchers and students and to hear about Georgia AIM.”

She added, “At Georgia AIM, we’re committed to making the state a leader in artificial intelligence-assisted manufacturing, and we’re grateful for Congressman Carter’s interest and support of our efforts.”

EI2 Global Wraps up Soft Landing Spring 2024 Cohort

Expanding a foreign business into the U.S. isn’t always a straightforward process. Companies are tasked not only with navigating national regulations and standard practices but also with grasping the nuances of American culture.

That’s where the Enterprise Innovation Institute comes in. The organization is authorized by the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) to provide instruction on those topics and others through the seven-week, hybrid  Soft Landing program, administered by EI2 Global.

The most recent cohort began February 14 and wrapped up April 17. During that period, participants were exposed to more than 40 hours of workshops, as well as one-on-one meetings and intensive training.

According to program director Alberto Ponce, Soft Landing “is the best investment companies can make to prepare for internationalization. It accelerates their work and provides them with networks, guidance, and hard research to enter the market. It’s an invaluable resource to make their goals a reality.”

People at a conference table speaking.
Juli Golemi (left), director of EI2 Global, listens as Juan Cuellar, senior international trade manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development addresses Soft Landing Immersion Week attendees. (PHOTO: Chris Ruggiero)

Since its launch in 2018, the Georgia Tech Soft Landing program has worked with 22 companies in five countries from two continents that were interested in expanding into the U.S. market. Of those participants, 15 of them have expanded into the U.S.

The first of Soft Landing’s three components is instructional. Conducted virtually and extending throughout the length of the course, it assists businesses in building their internal capacity for expansion.

“We advocate for Georgia in this part of the program,” said Ponce. “This is the fastest growing region in the United States, and the Atlanta metropolitan area has a great quality of life. But we are fortunate that, as a university-based endeavor, the Soft Landing program is not tied to any particular service-providers or government-based programs. So, there’s no expectation or requirement that businesses relocate here. They have their own networks; they’re not tied to this area.”

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Bayron Quinteros, CEO of IData, a 2023 Soft Landing participant, explains how the program helped him in his decision to establish his U.S. presence in Atlanta. (PHOTO: Chris Ruggiero)

Soft Landing’s other two components are designed to connect participants face to face with experts who can help put theory into practice, offering guidance on everything from relocating company managers to navigating aspects of hiring, immigration, and accounting.

It’s during Immersion Week — undoubtedly the program’s highlight — that these personal connections are facilitated. From March 18 to 22, EI2 Global hosted four companies from Colombia looking to expand their business into the U.S. They were introduced to upwards of 15 people in the Soft Landing network, including service providers, powerhouse networkers, government officials, and Chamber of Commerce members. They also attended networking events that put them in contact with hundreds of Latin American businesses, increasing their chances of finding partners, providers, and clients.

Nicolás Ochoa, director of the Medellín creative agency Studio 1642, saw Immersion Week as a structured way to approach people, saying, “the magic of this program is to really use those connections and those mentors.”

According to participant Andrés Domínguez, whose app Beunik connects users to salons and barbershops, one of the main benefits of the program is the way it fosters “unexpected collisions.”

He added, “You can meet anyone from your industry, and [they] can help you. I’ve heard that creating a startup is a lonely process. It [doesn’t have] to be. Allies like Soft Landing can help you to reduce a lot of uncertainty. When you reduce your uncertainty, you are going to make informed decisions, and this is the perfect program to make informed decisions to enter the U.S. market.”

From Ponce’s point of view, many program outcomes can be considered positive. While some Soft Landing participants determine that Georgia is the optimal location for their business, others may choose a different state — or decide it’s not yet the right time to move into the U.S. market. Regardless of which actions they ultimately take, participants gain a solid understanding of the strategies that will best serve their goals.

For Jorge Gutiérrez, whose business Grupo Y provides elastic polymers to a range of market sectors, the program provided a deeper insight into American culture, which he characterized as “very important, because [it gives] us the opportunity to understand how we can arrive in an [appropriate] way in the U.S.”

Even when Soft Landing concludes, the program is far from over. Participants are given ongoing assistance and follow-up mentorship. Scheduled check-ins at six months and a year are built into the curriculum, but there is plenty of flexibility, too.

“We have an open-door policy,” Ponce explained. “They can reach out to us requesting connections for mentoring or consulting, and we are always open to meeting with them to work through their problems. Expanding into a new country takes a lot of commitment and investment. Most of the companies don’t do it within the year.”

Periodically, participants are asked to reflect on how the Soft Landing program helped them and impacted their decision-making. Because success is subjective and highly variable, tracking it is necessarily an open-ended, long-term endeavor.

Said Juan José Acero, of health supplement company Brightfull, “As soon as you finish [the program], you have a lot of questions, but you know how to answer those questions. You know how to structure the project. You are not going to have a clear idea about the next couple of years, but you will be [able to] understand what you need.”

To set up a video call for more information, contact Soft Landing program director Alberto Ponce: alberto.ponce@innovate.gatech.edu, 404.894.7083.

NIH awards $2.9M grant to Annoviant for heart disease technology advancement

Annoviant co-founders Ajay Houde and Naren Vyavahare, CEO and chief technology officer, respectively.

ATLANTA — Annoviant Inc. a health technology company and member startup in the Enterprise Innovation Institute‘s Center for MedTech Excellence, is receiving a $2.99 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to further scale the development and commercialization of its TxGuardTM pulmonary-valved conduit for pediatric heart disease.

The award follows two Phase I NIH grants the company received, the most recent being in 2021.

Annoviant’s patented TxGuard™ stands at the forefront of technological innovation in conduit replacements for treating congenital heart disease (CHD), the most prevalent birth defect globally and a leading cause of birth-related mortality, the company said.

CHD encompasses a broad range of abnormalities that disrupt blood flow to and from the heart. It affects approximately 40,000 newborns annually — or 1% of births in the U.S. — and 1.35 million worldwide. With an estimated 2.9 million CHD patients in the U.S. alone, the need for advanced solutions is paramount.

“This marks a significant milestone for Annoviant as we accelerate our pursuit of impactful innovation to save lives,” said Annoviant CEO and co-founder Ajay Houde, Ph.D. “It validates our hypothesis and shows the NIH’s confidence in our ability to make good progress. Because we are a small startup, it gives private investors the confidence to invest with us and more companies working with us across the broader ecosystem.”

Addressing critical shortcomings observed in current commercial devices, TxGuard™ offers clinical advantages, notably its resistance to calcification, thrombosis, infection, and the host cell integration. This cutting-edge technology marks a new era in pediatric cardiac interventions, providing durable pulmonary valved grafts that adapt and regenerate alongside patients, minimizing the need for multiple re-operations over their lifetimes.

“Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the U.S. and is the most common birth defect in our newborns,” said Center for MedTech Excellence Director Nakia Melecio, who worked with Annoviant to help it scale and reviewed its federal funding submissions.

The Center for MedTech Excellence, which launched in 2022, works with early-stage life sciences startups that have specific obstacles that young tech companies in other sectors don’t face.

“This is a critical milestone for the company, and validates its research and work, thus far,” Melicio said. “Annoviant’s technology is tackling several challenges that the market currently faces and elevating the possibility for better patient outcomes in management of congestive heart failure.”

Pediatric patients with CHD often undergo multiple cardiovascular surgeries throughout their lives, with associated costs totaling billions for the U.S. healthcare industry. TxGuard™ offers a transformative solution to this ongoing challenge, promising extended durability and reduced healthcare burden for patients and providers alike.

He credited the company’s work with the Center for MedTech Excellence and being a health tech startup in the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s startup incubator, as being pivotal in Annoviant’s growth.

ATDC SBIR/STTR Catalyst Connie Casteel, who works with the incubator’s portfolio companies to help the prepare for these federal, non-dilutive funding grants, had worked with Annoviant on its federal funding approach and strategy.

“We went through the 16-week program with the MedTech Center and it really helped us think through the various aspects of the commercialization process and operational challenges we would face,” Houde said. “Greg Jungles at ATDC was also instrumental in helping us.  I’m really thankful for Nakia and his work with the MedTech Center and Greg and the team at ATDC.”