News

collage-in-the-news

 

    Chris Downing, vice president and director of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, announces retirement
    Chris Downing, vice president and director of Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

    Chris Downing is vice president and director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

    Chris Downing, who has led the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development efforts as vice president and director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), is retiring after 31 years of service.

     

    Downing, who has led EI2 since 2016, leaves behind a decades-long legacy of leadership experience at Georgia Tech in technology-based economic development, university outreach and technical assistance, entrepreneurship and start-up support, and program management.

     

    His retirement is effective June 1, 2019.

     

    “I feel very fortunate for such a diverse and challenging career and to have shared so many good years with the Georgia Tech family, and I am very appreciative of the many faculty, staff, and students who have made my time at Georgia Tech so interesting and inspiring,” Downing said. “Although I am leaving my full-time duties, I look forward to staying connected to Georgia Tech and supporting its mission of progress and service.”

     

    After leaving IBM where he was a mechanical facilities engineer, Downing joined Georgia Tech in 1988 as a senior research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

     

    In 1996, he joined EI2 — then called the Economic Development Institute (EDI) — as the Griffin regional office manager and provided industrial extension and economic development services to the south metro Atlanta region.

     

    Two years later, he was named group manager of technology services for the Economic Development Institute, where he was charged with overall management of technology deployment and information technology services to more than 200 EDI staff and associates located both on campus and in 12 regional offices across the state. In addition, this group provided technical research services for EDI clients in industry, business, and community economic development organizations.

     

    In 2005, he was tapped to lead EI2’s Industry Services group, which included several key outreach programs: the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), the Energy and Environmental Management Center, the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC), the Southeast Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), and the Georgia Tech Regional Office Network.

     

    Downing was named EI2’s associate vice president in 2013 and vice president in 2016.

     

    In that time, he spearheaded the three-fold expansion of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) and created the Venture Center space that has helped to attract several Fortune 100 corporate innovation centers to Technology Square.

     

    His technology-based economic development efforts helped Georgia Tech and the EI2 win the prestigious “2014 Innovation Award” from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the “2014 Outstanding Research Park Award” from the Association of Research Parks.

     

    Most recently, Downing led the feasibility study for the expansion of Georgia Tech’s second research park, Technology Enterprise Park, into a broader life sciences and technology innovation district.

     

    “Chris has been a tireless champion and supporter of our economic development initiatives, working to maintain strong partnerships across the state while creating new collaborations,” said Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson. “We appreciate his leadership role as Georgia Tech partners with the state to strengthen Georgia’s economy.”

     

    Downing is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering.

    Read more...

    Georgia Tech Taking Applications for Spring 2019 Cohort of International Companies Seeking to do Business in Georgia

    10-week Soft Landings Program helps companies understand U.S. market.

     

    Matthew Tebeau (right) is chief operating officer of Proteon Pharmaceuticals in ?ód?, Poland, and a 2018 Soft Landings participant.

    Matthew Tebeau (right), chief operating officer of Proteon Pharmaceuticals in Lodz, Poland, makes a point about questions foreign companies have when considering expansion into the United States at the Fall 2018 Soft Landings Immersion Week in Atlanta. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

    The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Soft Landings Program is now accepting applications for the spring cohort, which helps foreign companies that want to establish or increase their business operations in Georgia better understand the U.S. economy.

     

    The Soft Landings Program at Georgia Tech, a 10-week, webinar-based training and education initiative, helps companies quickly and efficiently assess multiple key factors to assist them in deciding if expansion in the U.S. makes sense, and if so, how.

     

    The program is offered in the spring and the fall in an online, cohort-based model, but participants come to Atlanta for one week of intensive training and immersion.

     

    The spring cohort begins May 16, 2019. Enrollment is open until May 2, 2019. (APPLY HERE)

     

    “Georgia is very welcoming to business and foreign investment, but we found there wasn’t a blueprint for companies from other countries that shows them all the things they need to consider in making that decision,” said Lynne Henkiel, director of Innovation Ecosystems.

     

    An offering of Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, Innovation Ecosystems works with communities and organizations to analyze and apply innovation-based ideas that drive economic development.

     

    “Our Soft Landings Program is that guide, it leverages our education, government, and business relationships, and taps into our economic development resources, for companies to make an informed decision about expansion into the United States,” Henkiel said.

     

    Among what participants will learn or receive:

     

    • Training in Lean Startup Methodology/Customer Validation techniques.
    • Access to a network of experts in various fields, from accounting to law.

    TheSoft Landings structure and training were invaluable for 2018 participant Matthew Tebeau, chief operating officer of Proteon Pharmaceuticals. The Lodz, Poland-based company is focused on eliminating the unnecessary use of antibiotics in livestock farming — but improve farm performance and sustainability — via the introduction of a natural class of anti-bacterials.

     

    “You spend time in the webinar portion preparing and working at your own pace with your team, according to the program. When you come here for the final week, you’re extremely well prepared to take advantage of the opportunities of meeting face to face with the business community,” he said.

     

    “The immersion week is a great opportunity to get a sense of how business is done in the U.S. in your particular sector. But you also see Atlanta, which is this amazing, friendly open business community — I think it’s even unique in the United States.”

     

    The Soft Landings initiative follows the International Business Innovation Association’s (InBIA) 2017 designation of Georgia Tech as a site. The designation recognizes entrepreneurship centers that excel in providing international companies with various services to ensure a smooth landing in the United States.

     

    With the Soft Landings program, Georgia Tech is working with its state and local economic development partners: the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Invest Atlanta, and the city of Atlanta’s Office of International Affairs.

     

    About Innovation Ecosystems

    Innovation Ecosystems is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development arm. Utilizing lean innovation ecosystems building, technology extension, and development programming, Innovation Ecosystems collaborates with communities and organizations domestically and abroad to help them create entrepreneurship and business incubation frameworks to promote sustainable economic development and growth. For more information, visit grow.gatech.edu.

    Read more...

    Enterprise Innovation Institute Hosts Visit from French Embassy for Workforce and Economic Development Discussion

    Christophe Bonneau (right), deputy economic counselor of business affairs for the Embassy of France to the United States, discusses his group's desire to better understand how universities and the private sector collaborate to support workforce and economic development, as Jérôme Vouland (left), the embassy's counselor for transportation and sustainable cities, listens. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

    The Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) recently hosted three representatives from the Embassy of France who visited the Georgia Institute of Technology campus as part of a multi-state tour to better understand how universities interconnect with the private sector to support workforce and economic development.

     

    EI2, comprised of a dozen programs, is Georgia Tech’s economic development arm. Through those programs, it supports commercialization of campus research and technology entrepreneurs, as well as industry and communities through business development extension services.

     

    “It’s very important for us to understand the common challenges between France and the United states,” Christophe Bonneau, deputy economic counselor for business affairs at the Washington, D.C.-based embassy, said during the March 15 visit.

     

    “One of them is filling the gap between what academic institutions have to bring in terms of training, in terms of skills, and the ever-evolving needs of companies, including manufacturing and technology.”

     

    Georgia and France trade more than $3 billion in goods and services a year. That includes more than $592 million in Georgia exports to France each year, according to Georgia Department of Economic Development figures.

     

    Georgia Tech and France have deep ties. Georgia Tech-Lorraine was established in 1990 in the eastern French city of Metz. The year-round campus — home to 600 each year — offers programs that create synergies between academics, research, and innovation. And since 2010, the Consulate General of France in Atlanta and Georgia Tech have collaborated together to present a multidisciplinary series of events each fall centered on innovation and designed to foster French-American cooperation and synergetic exchange in the Southeast.

     

    The Institute also has strong ties with the southern French city of Toulouse with initiatives in aerospace and bioengineering, and the annual Startup Exchange, where startups from Atlanta go to Toulouse and vice versa to better understand international opportunities.

     

    (From left) Melissa Heffner, VentureLab program manager, Chris Downing, EI2 vice president and director, and Lynne Henkiel, director of Innovation Ecosystems, listen as officials from the Embassy of France to the United States ask questions about Georgia Tech's work with private industry to drive economic and workforce development. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

    The French delegates learned how different EI2programs, such as the Economic Development Lab (EDL), work with communities to drive innovation at the local and regional level. For example, they learned about EDL’s Soft Landings Program, which helps foreign companies seeking to establish themselves in the United States understand how to do that and the different factors they need to consider before making that decision.

     

    They also gained insight into other efforts, including VentureLab and I-Corps South, which help foster commercialization of research beyond campus labs at Georgia Tech and universities across the Southeast, respectively.

     

    And, as part of their visit, they toured the Institute’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) to better understand how the state supports technology entrepreneurs who want to create scalable and viable companies in Georgia.

     

    “Georgia Tech has had a really long history in — and was founded to spur economic development in Georgia,” said Chris Downing, EI2vice president and director. “We do have a lot of programs that serve different needs and customer sectors, but they all highlight what Georgia Tech is doing directly to have some influence in the economic viability and sustainability of the region.”

     

    Bonneau and his team were particularly interested in Georgia because of the state’s urban and rural makeup.

     

    “There is the urban-rural divide that we are facing to a certain extent in France and it’s interesting to see how Atlanta is driving not only wealth, but innovation training, better skills for people, and what’s important is how it connects to the rest of Georgia and the rest of the southeastern United States,” Bonneau said.

     

    “We thought Georgia Tech was very interesting in how it connects with other incubators in the region, how it manages to bring companies and connect the with the local ecosystem, how it helps manufacturing plants, attracts research and development centers, and to that extent it’s been a great inspiration for us.”

    Read more...

    Georgia Tech hosts Congressional visit for FinTech discussion at ATDC
    U.S. Rep. French Hill (right) discusses the goals Congressional FinTech Task Force he sits on as Andrew Bate, CEO of SafelyStay, an ATDC FinTech portfolio company, listens.

    U.S. Rep. French Hill (right) discusses the goals of the Congressional FinTech Task Force he sits on as Andrew Bate, CEO of SafelyStay, an ATDC FinTech portfolio company, listens. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

    The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) recently hosted U.S. Rep. French Hill, who came to campus as part of a multi-city tour to learn about the incubator’s innovation efforts in financial technology.

     

    Hill, an Arkansas Republican whose district includes the Little Rock area, spent more than 20 years in commercial and investment banking. He founded the Little, Rock-based Delta Trust & Banking Corp. where he served as chairman, and CEO.

     

    A member of the House Financial Services Committee, Hill, who served under President George H.W. Bush as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Corporate Finance, is a leading voice in the financial services industry.

     

    “We’re going to create a new task force on FinTech in the House Financial Services Committee and are taking ideas from around the country to help drive legislative policy,” Hill said during his Feb. 16 visit where he met ATDC Director John Avery and founders of two of the incubator’s FinTech companies.

     

    As part of his work on that task force, Hill wanted to see the innovation ecosystem that has been built around FinTech, ATDC’s role in collaborating with related business and industry to support it, and how the incubator works with companies in that sector to help them grow and succeed.

     

    Georgia was an important stop for the Congressman’s fact-finding tour as 70 percent of all credit, debit, and gift card swipes — more than 118 billion transactions and $2 trillion in purchase volume each year — are processed through Georgia companies. More than 60 percent of all payment processing companies are either based in or have operations in the state.

     

    ATDC’s FinTech program, launched in 2015, has 35 early-stage startups in its portfolio. Since inception, companies and recent graduates of ATDC’s FinTech program have raised more than $65 million in angel and institutional venture capital.

     

    That success and impact factored in Hill’s visit as the Congressman’s tour also is designed to get input from FinTech companies and incubators regarding issues that can be a drag on FinTech innovation.

     

    Entrepreneurs, Avery said, are concerned with regulations at the federal level, which sometimes conflict with one another and the uncertainty that creates for fledgling startups. What’s more, state statutes can vary, leading to additional challenges for growth.

     

    “This is what I want to use this FinTech task force for, to work through some of these things,” Hill said, adding he wants to build a priorities list that the FinTech companies want Congress to focus on as well as emerging trends and innovations that leaders should be aware of in the industry.

     

    Along with that, Hill is seeking input from FinTech leaders about specific issues that need further analysis and study via hearings and how Atlanta could play a role in that.

     

    “Georgia Tech’s engagement in the startup ecosystem and Atlanta’s preeminence in payments I think is a good place to do this kind of convening.”

     

    Read more...

    Georgia Tech works with Irish researchers on innovation methodologies
    Melissa Heffner, I-Corps South program manager, leads a discussion on evidence-based entrepreneurship at the Science Foundation Ireland in Dublin. (Photo: Keith McGreggor)

    Melissa Heffner, I-Corps South program manager, leads a discussion on evidence-based entrepreneurship at the Science Foundation Ireland in Dublin. (Photo: Keith McGreggor)

    Wanting to tap into the Georgia Institute of Technology’s expertise in innovation and commercialization processes and methodology, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) recently hosted two lead managers of Tech’s I-Corps program lead managers in Dublin to train a group of research teams developing technologies with a focus on societal impact.

     

    SFI invited Keith McGreggor and Melissa Heffner to lead the Jan. 29 workshop series as part of the organization’s Future Innovator Prize project, which is aimed at supporting the development of disruptive ideas and technologies to address societal challenges.

     

    The 12 teams were focused on various projects ranging from biomedical devices to diagnostics and all had ideas for a product that could address a particular challenge or process that could be improved.

     

    “We were invited to come over to because of our experience as a leading institution in teaching the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program,” Heffner said. “They wanted us to explain and discuss how to develop a business model and how we do customer discovery and how that process is critical to objectively seeing what kind of societal impact these SFI teams could have with their projects and research theses.”

     

    The NSF’s I-Corps program — a boot camp that shows what it’s like to form a startup — helps NSF-funded researchers learn how to commercialize their findings and determine if a market actually exists for what they developed.

     

    “Our work in Ireland was focused on preparing these team to have the conversations and interviews with potential customers to determine if the problem they feel exists actually does and how they can solve that challenge,” Heffner said.

     

    “Identifying what you think is a problem is only one part of the equation. But researchers need to go out and talk to potential customers and users to understand if what they see as a challenge truly exists the way they think it does and how their proposed solutions should ultimately be designed to provide the greatest degree of societal impact.”

     

    Heffner worked on a similar project with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016.

     

    Georgia Tech — through its VentureLab incubator program — is an I-Corps node and teaches entrepreneurship, and research and innovation methodologies.

     

    Because of its long experience with forming companies from university research, Georgia Tech — through its VentureLab incubator — was selected in 2012 to be among the first institutions to become “nodes” teaching the I-Corps curriculum.

     

    VentureLab is Tech’s technology commercialization incubator that primarily serves Tech faculty, staff, and students who seek to launch startup companies from the technology innovations they have developed.

     

    McGreggor serves as VentureLab’s director and is executive director of I-Corps South, whichincludes Tech, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business.

     

    In the last several years, SFI has sent a few teams to Tech for I-Corps training and Tech has led similar sessions for the Centers for Disease Control. The government of Mexico in 2018, through its National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT), sent more than a dozen university-based instructors to Tech to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and how to build and maintain such programs at their schools.

     

    The effort in Ireland underscores the Institute’s international reputation for commercialization expertise and supports its efforts to further its reach in Europe, McGreggor said.

     

    “We want to leverage our presence in Europe with our Georgia Tech Lorraine campus in Metz, France, to do more entrepreneurship education across the continent,” McGreggor said. “Our work in Ireland and our relationship with SFI is a good example of our global impact and reach in our I-Corps programming and our evidence-based entrepreneurship. They want to work with us because of our strength in it.”

     

    Read more...