Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Smart Cities Projects Receive International Recognitions

Warner Robins, Woodstock, and Columbus, Georgia, recognized with smart community awards

Within hours in early March, projects from three Georgia communities that are part of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s (Partnership) Community Research Grant program were honored with international smart cities awards.

Winners of the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 Community Awards at the 2024 Taipei Smart City Summit and Expo

Warner Robins’ Citizen Safety Digital Twin for Community Resilience and Woodstock’s Smart Master Plan and Smart Corridor Study were recognized at the 2024 Taipei Smart City Summit and Expo with the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 Community Award.

At the same time, Columbus was named a Smart 20 award winner by Smart Cities Connect for the Digital Twin River Safety Project. That award will be presented in May.

“These accolades are a testament to the Partnership’s pivotal role in developing, nurturing, steering, and funding these projects from conception to triumphant completion,” said Debra Lam, the Partnership’s director.

The Warner Robins project to develop and test a Citizen Safety Digital Twin for Community Resilience integrated a dynamic license plate reader solution with police department investigation practices to help lower crime rates in the community. Working with researchers from Georgia Tech and Middle Georgia State University, the Warner Robins Police Department used historical crime data to determine the optimal location and direction to place license plate reader cameras. During the six-month pilot phase of the project, the data helped recover 27 stolen vehicles and solve three major crimes — a shooting and two homicides.

“It’s one of the best investments I think we can make as a city because it brings the peace of mind of safe streets, safe communities, safe shopping experience. The fact that we have our flock cameras in different areas in our city with the smart technology to expand the footprint of our police department helps us solve crime and also helps deter crime, which is even more beneficial.” Warner Robins Mayor LaRhonda Patrick said.

The Woodstock project dates back to 2020, when the city worked with the Partnership on a master plan and smart corridor study to help alleviate the traffic and lack of parking in the city, following a doubling of the population since 2010.

In that first part of the project, the city collected data from GridSmart installations, which document minute-by-minute traffic and turning movements. In the second phase, interns from the Partnership examined the data to find ways to integrate it with previously collected traffic volume flows to show historical patterns. The goal is to determine the best way to amalgamate the data for use in making smart decisions about new transportation projects.

“Woodstock is honored to be among this diverse list of communities, and we are proud to represent the state of Georgia with fellow honoree Warner Robins,” said Mayor Michael Caldwell. “The city of Woodstock is committed to improving its citizens’ quality of life through smart technology programs. From transportation systems to innovative infrastructure technology, the city has been boldly pursuing the initiatives of its Smart Master Plan since 2020.”

The Columbus project’s goal is to make the world’s longest manmade urban whitewater course safer for swimmers and boaters. Scheduled and unscheduled dam releases have caused flooding, limited time for evacuations, and drownings. A digital twin created for the river allowed Georgia Tech and Columbus State University researchers to collaborate and develop technology that can predict changing water levels, detect humans in the water, and alert authorities.

“I think to win the award is awesome, but the impetus was to promote river safety and provide real-time SMART solutions that save lives,” said Dr. James Forrest Toelle, information technology director for Columbus consolidated government, and the project manager for the digital twin project. “None of it would have been possible without the tremendous partnership with Georgia Tech, the Partnership, and our local fire department.”

“It was an incredibly valuable opportunity for us to develop public safety Digital Twins together with collaborators in Columbus and Warner Robins,” said John Taylor, Frederick Law Olmsted Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, “and it is particularly rewarding to see the research being implemented to help save lives and reduce crimes in real communities. These smart community awards are important recognition of the forward thinking vision and dedication to public safety of these communities.”

These three international wins follow the selection of Valdosta as a finalist in the 2021 World Smart Cities Awards in the Mobility Category for its Traffic Monitoring and Communication System to Improved Safety, Connectivity, and Efficiency project that has reduced the time it takes for first responders to travel the city.

“These projects exemplify the transformative power of technology and community engagement in creating safer, more enjoyable, and more resilient communities,” Lam said. “This remarkable success rate is a clear indicator of our role in nurturing a vibrant ecosystem for innovations—placing Georgia firmly on the map for smart cities.”

Partnership For Inclusive Innovation Welcomes Incoming Workforce Fellows

Event at Atlanta BeltLine Inc. celebrates outgoing cohort of Fellows and welcomes new class

The offices of the Atlanta BeltLine, itself a model of innovation, was the perfect spot to celebrate the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s (Partnership) PIN Fellowship, with an opening ceremony event that kicked off the Fellowship’s second year in operation, recognized the work of the outgoing class, and welcomed the next cohort into the program.

Event participants at the Atlanta BeltLine Inc.

Kara Lively, director of economic development for Atlanta BeltLine Inc., welcomed people to the offices and the event and discussed why she views the PIN Fellowship program as important to the BeltLine.

“A big part of why we’re a part of this initiative is our last pillar is innovation, specifically around smart cities and digital equity,” Lively said. “We want to be a testing ground for innovation in our city and a place where we can help grow the next generation of our workforce.”

“We define inclusive innovation as increasing access and opportunities for everyone to innovate,” Debra Lam, the Partnership’s executive director, said. “That innovation is not just an end state, but a real way to make the change that we want to see in terms of improving the human condition.”

The PIN Fellowship program supports that mission by working to identify and empower the next generation of innovative leaders in Georgia and the Southeast. The Fellowship places early career professionals into two public-private sector, six-month rotations that support corporate/startup and public/nonprofit projects in the same industry (AI manufacturing, IT/cybersecurity, cleantech, and supply chain). The projects are dedicated to advancing innovation and technology, while furthering economic opportunity for the Fellows themselves.

The program started in 2023, with two cohorts of Fellows working for companies and organizations including Cox Enterprises, the Atlanta BeltLine Inc., Georgia Tech, Park Pride, Freudenberg NOK, Microsoft, Fulton County government, and others.

The PIN Fellowship opening ceremony provided an opportunity for the first Fellows, who graduated from the program in 2023, to share their experiences and give advice to incoming Fellows.

“I would say the best thing about the PIN Fellowship was that we were able to get so many different experiences within a one-year period,” Sruthi Kumar, a Fellowship alum, said. Kumar worked at Cox Enterprises and Georgia Tech.

Following her Fellowship, Cox hired Kumar as part of its LEAD program, a rotational, leadership development program that introduces young professionals to different departments within the company. It’s a position she says she would not have gotten without the PIN Fellowship.

“The PIN fellows that we’ve had [at Cox], have really supported our fundamental programs on recycling and reducing our carbon footprint,” said Clarence Jackson, senior director of sustainable supply chain and business operations at Cox. “We’ve worked hard to get them involved and to support our programs directly.”

Noah McQueen, another Fellowship alum, worked last year at Microsoft and at the Atlanta BeltLine. “The most beneficial thing I believe about the PIN Fellowship is we got a chance to grow and explore and develop as young leaders in a professional space,” McQueen said. “I love the diversity of the public and private experience. You get the full scope of all the things that you can do in your career and the possible avenues you can take.”

Isaac Harper, a member of the incoming Fellowship cohort, will work with Cox Enterprises and the Georgia Water Coalition on a project near Augusta, Georgia.

“I wanted to be part of the PIN Fellowship for the learning opportunities that it provides,” Harper said. “I think coming here as an immigrant from New Zealand, as someone who’s already graduated, I missed a lot of that pipeline that somebody local would have access to. Trying to build a network over here is a goal. And I think PIN is going to help me with that.”

The incoming cohort has three Fellows who will be working with the following employers:

    • James Gathings Jr. – Atlanta BeltLine and Honeywell
    • Isaac Harper – Cox Enterprises and Georgia Water Coalition
    • Israel Todd – Park Pride and Cox Enterprises

Learn more about the Fellowship and the workforce development pillar at pingeorgia.org.

 

Now accepting Summer Internship Applications

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s Summer Internship
program is accepting applications through Feb. 11, 2024

What do mental health initiatives in Macon, the arts in Augusta, infrastructure in Albany, city data, and parks have in common? They are among the project host sites for the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s (Partnership) 2024 Summer Internship program.

The Partnership is a statewide public-private collaboration to promote innovations that drive inclusion and growth to build economic mobility for a more resilient and equitable future.

The Summer Internship program, formerly known as the Smart Community Corps, is seeking a record number of interns this summer. The public innovation projects address important civic challenges facing Georgia, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C.

“We’re continuing to grow,” Cody Cocchi, the Partnership’s student engagement manager, said of the upcoming sixth cohort of students. “Last year we had 35 internship opportunities. This year we have 42. That gives us opportunities for 84 interns, compared to 62 last year.”

The internship is an immersive 12-week program that pairs two students at each project site from universities and communities around the country to work on innovative public projects that foster economic mobility and sustainable living.

One other thing that will be different with the 2024 cohort is the opportunity for a student to build his or her own project, Cocchi said.

“Interns have to identify what the project is going to be, where their host site will be, and who the site supervisor will be,” he said. “They also have to find a peer to work with on the project. That’s a really interesting addition this year that has already drawn one application.”

Ornela Gjoni, a master’s student at Georgia Tech in city and regional planning, interned with Park Pride in 2023. Park Pride is an Atlanta nonprofit organization that works with communities to help develop neighborhood parks. Gjoni and her project partner worked on community engagement in Peoplestown, an historic neighborhood in Atlanta’s southeastern quadrant where Park Pride is helping to develop Four Corners Park.

Gjoni, who is from Albania, found the project helpful to her future career. “It was interesting to get a sense of what working with communities in another country will be like,” she said. “It was a taste of what I could expect after I graduate, if I’m able to find a job and do something similar.”

In addition to gaining job experience, the paid internships offer an opportunity to boost students’ professional level, expand professional networks, and take advantage of professional development programming.

Georgia City Solutions (GCS), a nonprofit unit under the umbrella of the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), was so impressed with the two interns they had in 2023, that the GCS signed on as an anchor partner, which means the organization is committed to hosting interns for 2024 and 2025.

For the GCS summer interns’ project, which started in 2023 and will continue, students measured, reported and shared GCS information related to work the organization is doing with cities around the state on equity and inclusion, municipal workforce development, and youth leadership and engagement.

“The most important tip,” said Brian Wallace, director of content strategy and engagement for the GMA/GCS, “is to have a project ready to go, then let the interns be creative.”

It was huge, he said, that they had two very good interns, who could spend 12 weeks completely focused on one project. “We hit a homerun with the two interns,” Wallace said.

For most of the projects, the Partnership funds the cost of one intern – a stipend of $8,000 is provided – and the site funds the other.

“Of course, it’s on a sliding scale all the way to zero,” Cocchi said, “Because of the inclusive nature of what we want to do, we don’t want to not support organizations that can’t afford to pay for interns.”

Interested in serving as a project site? There’s a process for that.

“We do an open call,” Cocchi said. “We want the projects to be community driven, community-identified issues, with community-driven solutions. Then we recruit students so that they know which organization they’re going to work with.”

The program is open to organizations from around the state and higher ed students from any institution, any degree level, and any major. Project sites for 2024 have already been selected. Intern applications will be accepted through February 11. Check out the Summer Internships website for more information.

Association of Public Land-grant Universities to Give Public Impact Research Award to Partnership for Inclusive Innovation

APLU’s Council on Research Award is one of three
presented to research institutes of higher learning

ATLANTA — The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) has named the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation at the Georgia Institute of Technology the 2023 winner of its Public Impact Research Award. It is one of three announced by the APLU’s Council on Research (COR), which also included the University of Alaska Fairbanks (Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Research Award) and the University of New Hampshire (Research Safety and Accountability Award).

Group shot student interns
The 2023 PIN Summer Internship Class, comprised of 63 students, supported 35 projects in 15 communities in Georgia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chris Ruggiero)

“Congratulations to this year’s COR Award winners,” Howard Gobstein, senior vice president for STEM Education and Research Policy and advisor to the president at APLU, said in a statement. “We’re delighted to recognize their leadership and outstanding work done in advancing public impact research, diversity and inclusion in university research, and enhancing safety.”

APLU, based in Washington, D.C., is a research, policy, and advocacy association of more than 250 research universities and land-grant institutions in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The Public Impact Research Award recognizes multi-project research efforts focused on community and public impact.

The Partnership, formed in 2020, is a regional public-private consortium tasked with leading strategic, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success.

APLU noted the Partnership’s work to foster collaborative projects across 34 institutes of higher learning, including historically Black colleges and universities. In 2023, the Partnership’s Student Engagement program brought 63 student interns from 25 universities across the country to work on 35 projects in 15 communities.

Other Partnership efforts have led to more than 45 multidisciplinary researchers focusing on community-driven needs such as increasing the use of data science at small and mid-sized farms across the state of Georgia to enhance production. Another project, in Valdosta, Georgia, led to improved emergency vehicle response timesthrough the implementation of traffic signal preemption technology. Overall, the $2.36 million in funding awarded by the Partnership to support projects has garnered an additional $17.3 million in funding from other sources.

“We are honored to have been selected for this recognition,” said Debra Lam, the Partnership’s founding executive director. “Tackling the complex challenges our communities face requires novel approaches to how we innovate. By leveraging the unique strengths of the public and private sectors, our model at the Partnership proves we can have substantive impact that promotes geographic and community inclusion and supports economic mobility for overall shared economic success.”

The APLU award is the second such recognition received by Georgia Tech. In 2014, the APLU named Georgia Tech one of four recipients of its Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Awards. Georgia Tech was selected because of its efforts through its Enterprise Innovation Institute, the oldest and largest university-based economic development organization of its kind in the country.

“Improving the human condition through research, and more importantly, applying those research innovations to solving real-world challenges, has been our core focus since our founding in in 1885,” said Chaouki T. Abdallah, Georgia Tech’s executive vice president for Research. “The Partnership is the embodiment of that mission and our continued commitment to economic development in Georgia and beyond.”

About the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of more than 250 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 5 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $49.5 billion in university-based research.

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 nearly 48,000undergraduate and graduate students, representing 50 states and more than 148 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 $1.45 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

About the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation

Launched in 2020, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is a public-private organization that was created to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success. The Partnership’s focus pillars of community research, workforce development, student engagement, and economic opportunity are a powerful combination that provide technical and financial support to democratize innovation through collaboration. Since 2020, the Partnership’s work has catalyzed 100+ projects with local governments, universities, startups, and nonprofits. The projects have created new businesses, increased access to financial and social capital, and deployed more than 200 technologies. More information is available at pingeorgia.org.

Smart Community Corps Launches Fifth Cohort

MACON, Ga. ­— From making improvements to Georgia’s farming and food systems to supporting artists’ programs to monitoring water quality in the state’s rivers, students in the fifth cohort of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s (Partnership) Summer Internship program, formerly Smart Community Corps, are working on public innovation projects that address some of the most important civic challenges facing our state — and are branching out to solve challenges in other states, as well.

Cody Cocchi, the Partnership’s student engagement manager, back left; and Debra Lam, Partnership director, front left, with some of the Summer Interns in Macon

The Summer Internship is a program under the Student Engagement pillar of the Partnership, which is a statewide public-private collaboration to promote innovations that drive inclusion and growth to build economic mobility for a more resilient and equitable future. The internship program, sponsored by Gulfstream and additional funding partners, is designed to foster the next generation of innovators by providing civic-minded college students, both undergraduate and graduate, from across the nation with hands-on experience working on real-life problems supporting innovation work to create livable and equitable communities.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller welcomed the students and others to Macon City Hall in early May for the kickoff of the fifth cohort.

Students in the previous four internship cohorts were all from Georgia colleges and universities and worked on projects in Georgia only. This year’s cohort of 62 summer interns includes students from as far away as Oregon and Illinois and projects in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., as well as in Georgia. The 35 host sites for 2023, represent city and county governments, higher education, nonprofit agencies, civic and minority-serving organizations, incubators, and startups.

State Rep. Dale Washburn (District 144) congratulated the students for their commitment to these important civic causes. He urged them to “follow something that’s honest and honorable and is of service to other people when choosing what you want to do with your life.”

The internships are a great place to start that journey.

“The 2023 Summer Internship cohort is the largest, most competitive, most geographically diverse cohort the Partnership has had,” said Cody Cocchi, the Partnership’s student engagement manager. “This cohort will have the most significant impact across the state of any of our previous cohorts. This class represents a diverse group of higher ed students from 25 universities, 8 states, and 14 countries.”

Manikandan Lapasi Parthasarathy, an intern who completed his first year in the master’s program for computer science at Georgia Tech, is working with Henry County to build a tool that can help local leadership make data-informed decisions on where to place freight infrastructure to improve life for residents in the region. For example, he is looking at “What kind of improvements can they make in which areas of the county? How will it affect the county as a whole? Which areas would be the best places to explore such improvements,” he said.

This project appealed to Lapasi Parthasarathy because “on the professional front, I’m good at building tools that translate ideas into actual instruments that we can use. I thought this would be a really good way for me to explore that further,” he said. “On the personal front, I like being useful to people.”

That’s a hallmark of these public innovation or civic technologies projects, they are useful to a broad swath of people, from the interns to the project site representatives to the people who live in the communities where the projects are based.

Wesleyan College in Macon, the first college in the U.S. chartered to grant degrees to women, has a long history of including the underrepresented. Two Wesleyan students are participating in the Summer Internship program for the first time this year.

“They’ve been connected with different organizations that are providing opportunities for our students around social enterprise,” said Wesleyan President Meaghan Blight. “It’s the best of both worlds — an opportunity for them to make a living over the summer that helps pay for their education while also giving them an opportunity to have workforce experience on something that’s driving their passion on the social enterprise piece, connecting with communities, and sustainability. Those are things that employers are looking for.”

Jordyn Hardy, a Wesleyan biology major, will spend the summer in the Okeefenokee Swamp. It’s an internship that plays right into her career goals. “I want to become a wildlife biologist,” she said. “I want to conserve endangered and threatened species.”

Wesleyan undergrad Savannah Pollock is working on a double major in biology and religious studies. She hails from Folkston, Georgia, the home of the Okefenokee, and is excited to spend the summer in the swamp, as well. “I really wanted to get involved in my community, especially in the black community in my hometown,” she said. “One of the big components of our hometown is the swamp. Being a part of that and trying to engage the community to be involved in it was something I was really interested in this summer.”

Victoria Ponce, a Georgia State University political science student, is returning for a second year with the Summer Internship. Last summer she worked at Neighborhood Nexus, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that provides data, tools, and expertise to help create more equitable and livable communities for all. This summer she’s interning in Washington, D.C., with MetroLab Network, an ecosystem of researchers and local government leaders who work collaboratively to equip cities with science.

“After working with Neighborhood Nexus last year, I realized that I have a passion for data and working with policy,” Ponce said. “Political science has a huge spot for data. I decided to go to law school and also to get a masters in working with policy. I think having this experience, getting mentors, and actually getting your hands on this type of work, gives you a better idea of the day to day.”

These paid internships continue through the summer, with a wrap up program in August, when students will present the findings from their work.

The CAT That Roars

Chatham Area Transit (CAT) is collaborating with Georgia Tech and other partners to deliver on-demand last-mile/first-mile transit in Savannah

In the commercial logistics and distribution industry, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed companies to upgrade last-mile capabilities – the ability to get products from the grocery store or distribution center to people’s homes. What has often been left out of last-mile planning is getting people themselves connected. Fixed bus or train routes often leave people blocks or even miles away from transit, miles that have to be traveled on foot to get to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, work, schools, and more.

At a press conference in Savannah project partners stand in front of a Chatham Area Transit Authority micro-transit van. From left, Debra Lam, executive director, Partnership for Inclusive Innovation; Andrew Young, field representative, Office of Sen. Raphael Warnock; Roxanne Ledesma, supervisory grants manager, USDOT; Ben Levine, special advisor, USDOT; Savannah Mayor Van Johnson; CAT CEO Faye DiMassimo; CAT Board Chair Diedrick Cody; Robert Hampshire, deputy assistant for research and technology and chief science officer, USDOT; Nicholas Savas, regional outreach coordinator, Office of Sen. Jon Ossoff; and Georgia House Rep. and former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson.

Now, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s (BIL) Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) grant program, Savannah will launch a pilot project to develop first mile/last mile on-demand transit. The app will seamlessly connect people to Chatham Area Transit Authority (CAT) fixed bus routes to get people where they need to go more efficiently and economically.

The $1.2 million grant was announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation in March. A total of 59 projects in 33 states were funded to the tune of $94 million to develop projects that improve transportation efficiency and safety using advanced smart community technologies and systems.

“The future of transit looks different,” said CAT CEO Faye DiMassimo. “Savannah is a great market for this project. It’s not so big that we can’t right the ship, but it’s not so small as to be not applicable or scaleable in other markets. And it’s a market with lots of different employment areas, tourism, a historic district, and warehousing/distribution.”

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership), which is supported by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, is putting together an advisory board comprised of local leaders and national transit experts, who will help ensure the work follows best practices from around the country while also addressing the specific needs of Savannah’s transit riders.

“Having corporate, civic, and nonprofit leaders involved to see how this project will impact their employees, students, and clients, will help ensure its success,” said Debra Lam, executive director of the Partnership. “National subject matter experts will be brought on for their expertise and also to share the project outside Savannah.”

The app, which will connect riders on demand from A to B and even to C or D, will operate similarly to Uber or Lyft. Riders will input their location and destination. The app will seamlessly connect users from curbside pickup by micro-transit to fixed bus or boat routes and will include paratransit if needed. It will synchronize bus and on-demand feeds to have buses and riders at the right place at the right time. Riders will be able to see when their curbside pickup will arrive and will pay a single fare for the entire trip.

Pascal Van Hentenryck, Georgia Tech’s associate chair for innovation and entrepreneurship and the A. Russell Chandler III chair and professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and his team developed the software, which was also used on MARTA Reach, a pilot project to add on-demand micro-transit to connect to bus and train routes in Atlanta.

“We have been working on this new type of transit system for more than 10 years,” said Van Hentenryck. “These are transit systems that are combining fixed routes and on-demand shuttles to provide door-to-door affordable services. We have developed all the technology for planning and operating such on-demand multimodal systems: What should be the fixed bus route? What should be the frequency between them? How many shuttles do you need? How do you dispatch them such that you serve people as quickly as possible?”

During Phase I, funds will be used to design the system, develop partnerships, and create ways to bring the community together so that riders will have a voice in how on-demand transit is built out. The pilot will connect three areas across the county. One pilot community includes the Tiny House Project, a neighborhood of permanent, affordable tiny houses that is home to 22 formerly unhoused veterans. The neighborhood, which will soon grow by 50 more houses, will continue to focus on veterans, and will also be open to other homeless people.

The Phase I project will run for 15 months. Following that, award winners can apply for a Phase II grant to implement improvements to Phase I and expand projects. For Savannah, the Phase II goal is to have on-demand micro-transit available across the region, seamlessly delivering visitors, students, and residents to jobs, historic sites, school, and wherever they need to go.

“We’re excited to implement this research,” Lam said. “It’s been done in other cities and every time it’s gotten better. Phase I will develop a blueprint that is electric, multimodal, and addresses last mile/first mile. It’s data driven to increase efficiency. It will empower communities through public transit. It will enable people to get to the doctor, to work, to school, wherever they need to go.”

More about the project can be found in this video, “Chatham Area Transit Announces SMART Grant to Improve Transportation Efficiency,” put together by the city of Savannah.

Bringing Entrepreneurship and Innovation Across Georgia

A study looks at ways to deliver innovation and entrepreneurial equity to the state

Living in metro Atlanta and working in the heart of Midtown’s Tech Square, it’s easy to assume that all of Georgia has the same innovation- and entrepreneur-based economic development ecosystem that exists in the state’s capital. And until now, there wasn’t any research to show exactly what the technology entrepreneurial landscape across the state looks like.

Paige Clayton, Ph.D., assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning, explored just that in an effort to form a baseline of information about innovation and entrepreneurship in the state and

develop a replicable method to analyze innovation activities over time with an eye for future areas of growth. Her research and recently released report, “Tracing Georgia’s Evolving Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship Landscape,” were funded by the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership), which is supported by Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, and the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation (COI).

Paige Clayton, assistant professor, School of City and Regional Planning

“I am interested in understanding how we can use innovation as a source of economic development both within and outside of major cities,” Clayton said. “Smaller, less dense areas often try to use the same types of economic development strategies as larger cities, but they don’t always seem to work as well. I’ve been motivated to try to understand places that have applied innovation-based economic development tools effectively outside major metropolitan areas to see what we can learn and apply to different areas in Georgia.”

It was a research idea right up the Partnership’s and the COI’s alley. The Partnership is a public-private organization launched in 2020 to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success.

Debra Lam, director, Partnership for Inclusive Innovation

“What’s really interesting about Dr. Clayton’s research is not only understanding Atlanta versus the rest of the state, but then digging deeper in terms of these regional innovation hubs across the state,” said Debra Lam, the executive director of the Partnership. “She’s also shown that what we hear about entrepreneurs leaving Georgia because there’s not enough venture capital for them to grow, isn’t entirely true. We are becoming a hub for inclusive innovation. Founders of color are coming in because they’re seeing this to be a welcoming, dynamic environment for them to grow their business.”

The COI, a strategic arm of the Georgia Department of Economic Development providing services and programs to help businesses around the state, also found the research important to its mission.

David Nuckolls, director, Georgia Center of Innovation

“In a lot of ways, the research validated what we already suspected,” said David Nuckolls, the COI’s executive director. “The entrepreneurship and innovation landscape has changed over the last few years and there is an even greater need for entrepreneurial and business support. Studies like this one illustrate current trend lines across the state and highlight opportunities to enhance existing efforts.”

Clayton and her team talked with people in economic development and entrepreneurship around the state about what they consider the strengths and weaknesses of their local ecosystems.

In Atlanta, strengths included:

    • Opportunities for Black founders
    • Georgia Tech
    • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
    • Involvement of corporate players
    • Growth in local venture capital funds

In Atlanta, challenges included:

    • Lack of connectivity and coordination of resources and support organizations
    • Lack of financial capital
    • Lower valuations and earlier exits than peer ecosystems
    • Founders program hopping rather than building firms
    • Difficulty finding life sciences mentors
    • Poor local transportation

Outside Atlanta, researchers explored ecosystems in Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah, and found several challenges to growing an innovation and entrepreneurial culture.

    • The slower pace of life in these areas may appeal to individuals who are not as interested in starting and operating their own businesses, especially those related to technology
    • How can communities achieve critical mass and develop the physical, intellectual, and social infrastructure needed to strengthen innovation?
    • More examples of success are needed, with lessons that can be applied broadly

Findings like these will be useful not to entrepreneurs themselves, but to economic developers around the state, Clayton said. “I think where it’s helpful is for people who are trying to foster an innovation or entrepreneurial ecosystem in their region. They can think about some of the assets they already have, because the paper shows some of that. And then, it could help them think about strategies beyond ‘if you build it, they will come’ type models for innovating.”

Jud Savelle, the ATDC @ Albany catalyst with the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Advanced Technology Development Center, is glad to see research like this and believes it can bolster innovation in areas like Albany.

Jud Savelle, ATDC @ Albany catalyst

“One of the conclusions that didn’t seem to surprise anyone was that a major challenge outside Atlanta — and particularly in a place like Albany, where there is no entrepreneurial or innovation ecosystem — is the lack of support and resources that could help to build a culture of innovation,” said Savelle, who works with technology entrepreneurs in the Albany area who are looking to create startups. “A major challenge for entrepreneurs who want to stay in their hometowns and grow a technology business or innovate in agriculture, is getting funding. There is also a lack of other support. If entrepreneurs who have a shot at success leave for the essential support that Atlanta can offer, then newcomers back in the towns across the state, don’t have mentors or peers to learn from and share information with.”

The report offers four recommendations to foster statewide innovation and entrepreneurship:

First, improve statewide coordination and connection. One way to do this is to create an annual Georgia Innovation Ecosystem Summit to bring together local ecosystem champions, investors, economic developers, and others who support entrepreneurs.

Savelle thinks this is the most important takeaway from the report. “We need to have better access to see into other communities, to see what they’re doing, and then to intentionally come together and better support each other in building out these ecosystems for the benefit of the whole state.”

Lam agrees. “This would provide Georgia a new gathering of entrepreneurs, economic developers, and researchers, where they are finding opportunities to collaborate.”

Second, the report recommends improving information availability and sharing stories more broadly so that regions can learn best practices and avoid unsuccessful strategies.

Third, build networks and think regionally. Efforts to support ecosystems outside Atlanta should be regional and more targeted to specific industry sectors. Enhancing regional social networks — the relationships and interactions between individuals involved in entrepreneurship and innovation — is vital.

Finally, enhance digital, financial, and business literacy. Technology-related innovation and entrepreneurship cannot occur without the basic education and technological needs of citizens being met.

“I don’t think every city and region of Georgia needs to be a technology entrepreneurship place,” Clayton said of her research. “I don’t think that’s reasonable or possible. But I do think the broader ideas of what being innovative is, of coming up with new solutions to problems, of having this sort of worldview that if there are problems, we can solve them and that process could lead to some economic benefit to where I live, I think that those kinds of ideas are important to have.”

And that’s really the bottom line of putting research like this into practice — how can it be used to better the lives of people around the state?

“Some of the entrepreneurs that are coming from regional innovation hubs, because of the connection with the community, because of the support they got from the community, they became more invested in the success of the community,” said Lam. “That’s exactly what we want. When we talk about building regional innovation hubs, it’s so that we can address some of the inequalities across the state.”

Partnership Launches Workforce for Tomorrow with Inaugural Cohort

ATLANTA — The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership) is proud to announce the launch of the Workforce for Tomorrow Rotational Fellowship (WFT), a first-of-its-kind opportunity designed to mold fellows into the next wave of leaders within the state of Georgia.

It will serve as the flagship program of the Partnership’s workforce development pillar. WFT further supports the Partnership’s mission of driving growth and innovation forward while building connections between the public and private sectors.

The first cohort of Workforce for Tomorrow participants
The first cohort of Workforce for Tomorrow participants (from l-r) LaDerrius Williams, Phillip Abidoye, Sruthi Kumar, Iesha Baldwin, Isabelle Barnett, and Noah McQueen. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

“Workforce for Tomorrow presents an amazing opportunity for early career professionals to explore career paths and engage in a mission-driven initiative that benefits the public and private sectors,” said Clarence Anthony Jr., the Partnership’s Workforce Development manager. “I could not be prouder of and more impressed with the quality of fellows and employers who are a part of our inaugural launch.”

Fellows will complete two six-month rotations at two different organizations (one in the private sector and one in the public sector) within the same industry. Over the duration of WFT, fellows will receive full-time compensation and work experience. WFT fellows are also provided career development and exploration opportunities during the program, as well as mentorship from their site hosts and the Partnership’s Workforce Development team.

“This program is structured in a way that includes the participation of both private and public sectors and accommodates diverse people with a wide range of experiences and academic backgrounds,” said Phillip Abidoye, one of six individuals selected for the first cohort of WFT fellows. “WFT is unique and different from other programs that I have participated in.”

Panelists presenting
Panelists discussed the components of successful workforce development at the Workforce for Development kickoff event. (From left) Kerel Fryar, Truist Bank; Cleveland, Ga. Mayor Josh Turner; Heather Maxfield, TAG-ED; Donna Ennis, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, and Ira Pearl, Cox Enterprises. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

The program is open to undergraduate and graduate degree holders with less than five years of professional experience. Fellowship applicants must currently reside in Georgia or have an interest in relocating to Georgia.

“I learned about the fellowship through one of my mentors,” said Iesha Baldwin, another of the fellows in the first cohort. “WFT is based in my home state of Georgia, so it is giving me the opportunity to return home and be closer to family.”

The first cohort of WFT fellows — Abidoye and Baldwin, along with Isabelle Barnett, Noah McQueen, and LaDerrius Williams — have been matched with employers in advanced manufacturing and logistics, sustainable energy, and information technology and sustainability. The inaugural class of fellows will work with the following employers (Abidoye’s placement is being finalized):

  • Iesha Baldwin – Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute and Freudenberg NOK
  • Isabelle Barnett – Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute and Freudenberg NOK
  • Sruthi Kumar – Cox Enterprises and Georgia Tech Strategic Energy Initiative
  • Noah McQueen – Microsoft and the Atlanta Beltline
  • LaDerrius Williams – Cox Enterprises

“I have never seen a fellowship that so clearly advocates for mentorship and advocacy for its employees,” Barnett said. “I am really excited to work with Georgia Tech and Freudenberg NOK – I truly can’t imagine a better partnership.”

The fellowship formally launched December 1, with a kickoff event at Microsoft Atlantic Yards in Atlanta. The event featured a keynote presentation from Georgia State Sen. John Albers as well as a panel discussion between public and private sector partners to discuss the role of workforce development and public-private partnerships in economic growth.

“We are so excited to welcome our fellows with this cohort,” said Michelle Guthrie, Cox Enterprises’ human resources leader. “We are very excited to bring new talent into our organization who can bring their own innovative perspectives to what we do every day.”

Georgia-AIM Hosts Kick-Off Meeting

Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia-AIM) recently held its initial kick-off meeting in October 2022.

Over a two-day period, more than 100 participants from across the state came to Atlanta to brainstorm, collaborate, and share best practices as the group launched its effort in earnest following its winning of a $65 million award from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) in September.

Led by the Georgia Institute of Technology and a coalition of private and public partners across the state, Georgia-AIM seeks to reimagine job opportunities and wage growth in economically distressed and underserved rural parts of Georgia by melding artificial intelligence (AI) with manufacturing, an all-too-important segment of the state’s economy. Manufacturing’s economic impact to the state exceeds $60 billion a year and it employs more than 400,000, Georgia Department of Economic Development figures show.

The goal is to develop new opportunities through outreach programs designed to create a transformational Georgia workforce that will embrace artificial intelligence not be mystified or afraid of it, said Donna Ennis, director of Diversity Engagement and Program Development in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and also director of its Georgia MBDA Business Center. Ennis is leading the effort along with Aaron Stebner, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering, and Thomas R. Kurfess, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute.

A large part of the the Georgia-AIM effort, which is also focused on serving historically underrepresented and underserved groups, is getting people to understand artificial intelligence goes beyond robots and that it’s not about taking jobs away, but leveraging this ever-evolving technology to create the jobs of the future, Ennis said.

AI is already an integral part of daily life from smart homes and cars to cities and mobile devices, she said.

“We want to demystify what it is,” she said. “We want to be able to show you that there is a place for you in the artificial intelligence world, particularly as it relates to the manufacturing.”

Kick-off event attendees were able to network and get more in-depth presentations regarding the various projects under the Georgia-AIM umbrella. The projects include building automation solutions tailored for rural manufacturers, industry pilot trials, workforce training for AI manufacturing technologies, prototyping labs and studios, curriculum development for K-12 students, and an virtual reality training innovation lab.

In addition to Georgia Tech, the coalition of 12 public-private partners includes:

·       Georgia Department of Community Affairs

·       Georgia Cyber Center

·       Houston County Development Authority

·       KITTLabs

·       Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs

·       Robins Air Force Base 21st Century Partnership

·       Spelman College

·       Southwest Georgia Regional Commission

·       Technologists of Color

·       Technology Association of Georgia Education Collaborative

·       Technical College System of Georgia

·       University of Georgia

Debra Lam Appointed to U.S. Department of Commerce’s New Internet of Things Advisory Board

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Commerce has appointed Debra Lam, executive director of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, to its new Internet of Things Advisory Board (IoTAB), to advise the Internet of Things Federal Working Group. Lam joins 15 other experts on a board that includes a wide range of stakeholders outside of the federal government with expertise relating to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Debra Lam, executive director, Partnership for Inclusive Innovation

The appointments are the first for the recently established advisory board, which was created in accordance with the requirements of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, and in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended.

The board will advise the federal working group on matters including the identification of any federal regulations, programs or policies that may inhibit or promote the development of IoT; situations in which IoT could deliver significant and scalable economic and societal benefits to the United States, including smart traffic and transit technologies, augmented logistics and supply chains, environmental monitoring, and health care; IoT opportunities and challenges for small businesses; and any IoT-related international opportunities for the U.S. Full details on the board’s activities are provided in a Federal Register notice.

The board consists of 16 members and represents a broad range of disciplines from across academia, industry and civil society. Board members will serve two-year appointments, and all meetings are open to the public.

Launched in 2020, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is a public-private organization that was created to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success. With support from Georgia Tech and a host of private and public partners, including the State of Georgia, the Partnership’s focus pillars of community research, workforce development, student engagement, and economic opportunity are a powerful combination that provide technical and financial support to democratize innovation through collaboration. Among its offerings, and one of the reasons Lam is on the board is the Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation program, which activates collaborations between researchers and municipalities to explore innovative uses of technology and data in pursuit of prosperity for all.

In addition to Lam, the newly appointed members include:

  • Benson M. Chan (Chair), Chief Operating Officer, Strategy of Things Inc.
  • Daniel W. Caprio Jr. (Vice Chair), Co-founder and Chair, The Providence Group
  • Michael J. Bergman, Vice President, Technology and Standards, Consumer Technology Association
  • Ranveer Chandra, Managing Director of Research for Industry and Chief Technology Officer of Agri-Food, Microsoft
  • Nicholas Emanuel, Product Manager, CropX
  • Steven E. Griffith, Senior Industry Director, National Electrical Manufacturers Association
  • Tom Katsioulas, Chair, Global Semiconductor Alliance
  • Kevin T. Kornegay, Professor and IoT Security Endowed Chair, Morgan State University
  • Ann Mehra, Adviser to Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
  • Robby Moss, President and Principal Consultant, TGL Enterprises LLC
  • Nicole Raimundo, Chief Information Officer, Town of Cary, North Carolina
  • Maria Rerecich, Senior Director of Product Testing, Consumer Reports
  • Debbie A. Reynolds, Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Data Privacy Officer, Debbie Reynolds Consulting
  • Arman Shehabi, Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Peter Tseronis, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dots and Bridges LLC

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will provide administrative support to the advisory board, and information on board activities can be found on the NIST website.