News

Orthotics Company Regaining Its Competitive Edge

In 1992, Karen Bonn left behind a nursing career to start a company that manufactures restorative splints and braces in Brandenburg, Ky. She began Restorative Medical in her basement and funded the business with her husband’s retirement savings and a second mortgage on her home.

“While working as a director of nursing in a long-term care facility, I was disheartened at the limited and inappropriate selection of orthotics available for restorative type patients,” she recalled. “While most of the medical community still thought these types of disabilities were inevitable and not able to be corrected, I decided to design my own braces.”

Orthotics are custom-made appliances that stabilize and protect fragile joints and can also keep a joint properly aligned to improve functioning. The splints and braces that Restorative Medical manufactures treat patients who, due to illness or injury, are unable to relax their muscles. Although the organelles in the muscle tissue are still active, the relaxation message is not received from the brain and the body ends up in a hyper extensive mode, twisted and deformed.

As president and CEO of the eight-employee company, Bonn said that she often relied on word of mouth to market the company’s products. Such success can be short-lived when competing in the global marketplace.

“We’re trying to figure out how to make an impact on the world, and we struggle,” she admitted. “Our biggest competitor, a firm in Costa Rica, cut its price to the absolute bottom, so we had to lower our price and fight very hard to stay in business.”

To address some of her concerns, Bonn began working with specialists from the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta. Serving the eight-state region of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, SETAAC helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to better compete with imports.

“If a company’s sales and employment are down as a result of imports, it probably qualifies for the program,” said project manager Mark Hannah. “We conducted an initial review of Restorative Medical, and helped them prepare an application for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Once they were approved for the first level of funding, we developed a diagnostic and adjustment plan in order to address issues to help the firm improve its competitive position.”

Firms that are accepted into the SETAAC program pay for 25 percent of the diagnostic visit and report. The government generally pays half of the cost of project implementation for activities to benefit the company. Following the diagnostic and adjustment plan, Hannah had private sector consultants submit quotes for implementing the identified projects. Bonn then selected the consultant and together they implemented the changes.

Typically, companies that are involved in the SETAAC program receive assistance in marketing consulting, manufacturing improvements, information systems improvements, employee training and maintenance and quality systems improvements. SETAAC helped Restorative Medical with developing a DVD that could be used for marketing purposes and for training nursing home and health care personnel.

“The DVD will be an awesome thing for the future of our company and our marketing efforts,” noted Bonn. “The ultimate goal is to send the DVD for training purposes instead of having to get on a plane to explain the products to someone.”

Another area in which Restorative Medical received assistance was the patent of a new product, Hyper Hands. This brace helps to treat typical conditions like neurological tone, arthritis and ulnar drift, in which the fingers all bend toward one side of the hand. Bonn said the assistance she received from SETAAC was critical.

“We could not have afforded to submit a patent for a new product without the assistance of SETAAC,” she said. “Our representative was wonderful to keep in touch, aware of deadlines and very organized.”

Bonn said she expects additional jobs to be created in the future, once sales have taken off from the company’s marketing efforts. Currently, she is applying for the next phase of funding available through the SETAAC program.

Last year, SETAAC helped more than 30 companies. On average, these companies received $42,000 in matching funds. In the last three years, SETAAC’s overall client base has increased sales by 26 percent and improved productivity by 28 percent.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).
Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Newnan Aluminum Extruder Implements Lean, Increases Productivity

Rick Miller, process optimization manager with Bonnell Aluminum, discusses the impacts of the lean implementation with Georgia Tech’s Jennifer Trapp-Lingenfelter and Derek Woodham.

As process optimization manager for the William L. Bonnell Co., a full-service aluminum extruder and a division of Tredegar Industries, Rick Miller saw first-hand the effects the recent slump in home building has had on the Newnan, Ga. plant that makes products as varied as hurricane shutters, tub and shower fixtures, louvers and vents.

“Bonnell serves a lot of customers in the commercial and residential building and construction markets. The Newnan plant is particularly tied to residential building so when the housing market slows down, it slows down Newnan’s business,” he said. “Last year we were in a bit of a crisis mode, and started looking for outside assistance.”

That assistance came from David Apple, northwest Georgia region manager for Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. According to Miller, Apple was a real cheerleader for lean manufacturing principles, a process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System and known for reducing wasted time and effort to improve overall customer value.

“Historically when we’ve had high volume, we could usually make decent money, but the real problem was the cost creep of utilities, labor rates, benefits and other costs,” Miller recalled. “In a year where we had all the volume we wanted, we still didn’t make much money. That’s what showed us we needed to do something.”

In February 2006, Georgia Tech lean specialists Jennifer Trapp-Lingenfelter, Derek Woodham and Tom Sammon conducted an assessment at Bonnell, and led initial training for management. Miller said that it was important to have external people be a part of the project since they can bring a different perspective and challenge the status quo.

According to Miller, the A1 packaging area was the most complex and offered the most opportunity for improvement. The team developed a value stream map and standardized the layout of equipment to improve the process flow — not only of product but of people as well.

“We’re always focused on machine utilization and automation, but Derek, Tom and Jennifer didn’t even look at machine pace or speed while they were in here — they were looking for waste,” Miller said. “I used to think the best we could do was incremental improvement, but there’s a lot of opportunity out there.”

Some of the waste observed in the A1 packaging area included an imbalance in production between extrusion, anodizing and packaging; multiple schedules; scrap and quality issues; and disorganization of work in progress.

“There was no flow through the packaging line, and that was a problem in terms of ergonomics and safety. There was excessive walking, excessive material handling and underutilized space,” remembered Trapp-Lingenfelter. “It was our goal with this project to educate all levels of the organization about lean tools, develop a culture of continuous improvement and assist in achieving a cost reduction plan.”

In addition to the introductory training on lean principles, other projects included multiple kaizen projects to improve product flow, reduce work in process, develop standard work, and incorporate 5S (sort, straighten, shine, systemize and sustain), point of use storage and visual controls.

As a result of the lean implementation, Bonnell has achieved outstanding results. The A1 packaging line has experienced an 18 percent increase in productivity since early 2006, and this steady increase in productivity has spanned high- and low-volume business cycles and different staffing levels. Those productivity improvements have reduced the annual operating costs by $330,000. Work in process levels have been slashed by 200,000 pounds on the floor, resulting in
a $350,000 reduction in working capital.

“The first hurdle was like being underwater and being unable to breathe. But once we get some oxygen, we’re going to figure out how to grow this business. If we’re not growing and increasing shareholder value, what are we doing?” asked Miller. “If we can demonstrate that we’re really good at what we’re doing, it may open us up to new opportunities such as minor fabrication that our customers would like for us to do.”

Bonnell is not merely interested in its bottom line, however. In an effort to make the Newnan plant the preferred place to work in the region, the company conducted a survey to reduce turnover and absenteeism among employees. The seven aspiration statements that resulted from the inquiry included: facility upgrade/facelift, effective shift schedule, leadership training, staffing to full-time process, team member development, family atmosphere and better pay through incentive recognition.

“This is the sign we’re always looking for. If we’ve got people thinking on their own, that’s when the company is starting to become a lean organization,” explained Woodham. “We’ve got to get more converts out there and you get converts by doing projects.”

One such convert was Louis Bell, anodizing manager for the Newnan plant. He said the biggest overall improvement has been being able to keep material flowing through the department without stopping. He also noted that the decreased congestion has also decreased the injuries recorded: last year there were 12 injuries whereas the year before had 24.

“It’s been a learning experience for everybody. It’s sometimes hard to see that it’s actually going to work until you try it,”said Bell, who is described as a “poster child for lean” by Woodham and Trapp-Lingenfelter. “Knowing that it’s my idea, I have to make it work.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Vidalia Hospital Implements Lean, Increases Efficiency

Alan Kent, president and CEO of Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia, Ga., was a champion for implementing lean principles in the hospital’s emergency department. Photo by Gary Meek

Emergency rooms in the United States aren’t known for their efficiency.  Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the 110 million people who visited an emergency room in 2004 spent an average of 3.3 hours from check-in to physician visit to discharge.

American emergency rooms are not just inefficient, they are facing a crisis. Most ER visits are made by the elderly or the uninsured at a time when the number of hospital emergency departments has been cut by 14 percent. Other CDC statistics show that ER visits by adults aged 22 to 49 increased 19 percent while visits by Americans aged 50 to 64 grew 15 percent.

Peggy Fountain, director of the emergency department at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia, Ga., is all too familiar with these issues. At one point, the average length of stay for her emergency department patients soared to more than 200 minutes, well below the national average, but still unacceptable to Meadows’ management.

“We had issues with bottlenecking, turnaround times, decreased satisfaction and overworked nurses,” she recalled. “One day, our president and CEO, Alan Kent, asked if I would be interested in having Georgia Tech assist us. Working here 24/7, there may be things that need to be changed that I can’t see but an outsider could.”

With funding from the Georgia Rural Economic Development Center (GREDC) at East Georgia College in Swainsboro, lean specialists with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute conducted a three-day lean overview workshop and value stream mapping event with Meadows’ emergency department in June 2005. In addition to Fountain and Kent, workshop participants included the ER nursing staff, an ER physician, the radiology director, laboratory manager and business office staff.

“You shouldn’t ask your employees to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. How will you know where to deploy resources if you don’t learn about the opportunities themselves?” asked Kent. “The engagement of senior management is critical to any significant organizational change.”

Frank Mewborn, the Georgia Tech lean specialist who led the events at Meadows, agrees with Kent’s assessment. “It is important to involve top management as well as those who are in the trenches every day,” he noted. “The first day of training we had about 20 people across all departments, and about 12 participated when we actually did the value stream mapping.”

The lean team at Meadows developed 44 action items for reducing lead time to admit, treat and discharge a non-critical ER patient, 18 of which were determined to be low-cost and high-impact. The ideas fell into one of seven categories: 5S and visual controls, cross-training, equipment, hospital procedures, patient information, general procedures and staffing. 5S — which stands for sort, straighten, shine, systemize and sustain   is a philosophy and a way of organizing and managing the workspace so morale and efficiency are increased.

“Our Pyxis system — which is an automated mobile supply station that we pull supplies from based on a patient’s name — were all set up differently,” Fountain said. “Now they are all standardized so they contain the same general supplies in the same place, and that has helped nursing a lot.”

Other changes that were made included labeling racks, trays and drawers; installing a color-coded flag system outside patient rooms; issuing patients red allergy armbands to alert medical staff; and adding a holding area for patients who need to see a doctor but don’t need a room. Fountain also touts the implementation of the T System , a software program specifically designed for the emergency department that is able to interface with other software systems used throughout the hospital.

Integrated with the T System is a large, plasma screen monitor in the nurses’ station that can show staff who is in the waiting room, who needs an X-ray and who can be put into a room or a wheelchair. The T System also documents length of stay, lab tests ordered, physician and nurse assigned to the patient and discharge disposition, as well as patient name, room number and prior ER visits, if applicable.

Meadows has also created incentives for its emergency department staff for meeting the stated goal of 110 minutes length of stay. Timers set to 30-minute increments are activated once patients come in the door, and a team of nurses assist with getting IVs started, providing respiratory assistance or monitoring them with an EKG. Already, the emergency department staff has met that goal on numerous occasions.

“After the value stream mapping exercise, we had about 75 sticky notes posted on a wall that signified different changes that needed to be made,” Kent remembered. “As those ideas were implemented, the staff would cross them off and move them to another wall. Over a period of months, I saw those 75 notes drop to about 20. About half of the items in there were low or no cost.”

As a result of the lean health care implementation, Meadows has realized outstanding results.  Physicians, on average, are seeing more patients per hour than before the lean implementation. In 2005, average length of stay per patient was 247 minutes; thus far in 2007, it is 139 minutes — an astounding 43.7 percent reduction. That success is reflected in patient satisfaction numbers as well: approximately 92 percent of patients reported that “Overall, I am pleased with the quality of care provided at this facility.”

“We’ve grown our business overall by 10 percent while reducing our turnaround time, which in an emergency room relates almost directly to patient satisfaction and willingness to come back as a repeat client,” noted Kent, a 1979 health systems graduate of Georgia Tech. “It also has improved work life for participants so turnover is lower. We ended up with some good cross-training opportunities and more of a team environment in the ER now.”

Fountain also points out that emergency room staff is more empowered to take initiative and make changes that could positively impact their work process.

“Staff members realize that it’s not just the ER’s problem   it’s everyone’s problem. Whatever we can do to improve the process makes everyone’s job easier,” she said. “Walking into this ER is stressful enough   you don’t need to walk in stressed out about the process part of it, in addition to what you’re going to see that day.”

Meadows’ management plans on utilizing lean health care principles when it builds a new, state-of-the-art hospital. The original facility, built in 1963, employs 600 people and operates 87 beds as well as a 35-bed nursing home, an eight-bed outpatient facility, and one part-time and two full-time operating rooms.

“We want to design the new facility using lean processes before architects draw up the building,” said Kent, who also plans to incorporate online patient registration, self check-in kiosks and bar-coding into the new hospital. “We’ll draw a building around the parameters of the number of ER visits, OR visits, square footage needed, beds needed, budget, et cetera. We want to optimize process before we draw the first line. We want form to follow function.”

Jack Bareford, GREDC director, believes Meadows’ success can be replicated in other rural Georgia hospitals. GREDC focuses on economic development issues that build economic strength and develops innovative, practical strategies that prepare rural communities to prosper.

“Rural health care is one of the most important issues in successful economic development, and communities that have access to good health care can survive and grow,” Bareford said. “With the many challenges there are to rural hospitals, such as care for the uninsured, reliance on lower-paying publicly-funded insurance plans, skyrocketing liability costs and shortages of health care professionals, the lean health care model can save time and resources to help hospitals remain healthy.”

Kent agrees that Meadows’ approach could be successful in other hospitals, but notes that change is often difficult, especially in health care.

“In health care, we live in these little silos. People should be hovering over us asking how we implemented lean. Success in the past does not necessarily ensure success in the future. If you don’t change and innovate, it will kill you,” Kent noted. “One of the goals of lean health care is to awaken a new level of thinking and introduce manufacturing approaches that have been proven to produce excellent efficiency and profitability.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Vivonetics: Enabling Drug Discovery and Disease Diagnostics Through Tiny Molecular Beacons

Vivonetics is bringing several Georgia Tech technologies to market that could dramatically change drug discovery process and disease diagnosis. The company, which was recently accepted into the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), is developing and commercializing nano-scale sensors called molecular beacons.

“Our molecular beacon technologies provide a novel way to detect gene transcripts in live cells. Such an invention may be used to measure biomarkers, which are used to assess a patient’s disease state and thus provide vital information with regards to how well a patient is responding to a drug regimen,” said Thanh Doan, director of business & research development for Vivonetics. “Molecular beacons can also be applied to drug discovery. For instance, a drug that turns on a gene can be discovered by looking at the amount of light emitted by the molecular beacons in living cells.”

A molecular beacon is a hairpin oligonucleotide probe that fluoresces when it binds to a target RNA molecule. Vivonetics uses two technologies – dual FRET molecular beacons and peptide-linked molecular beacons – developed in the laboratory of Gang Bao, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. These technologies offer improvements over what is currently in use through its specificity, signal-to-noise aspect and its unique application for cells and tissues. Company officials say this is a key advance for detecting specific genes in living cells.

The company was founded in 2003 by Bao and Karim Godamunne, a VentureLab fellow. Vivonetics has already received Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) Phase 1 and Phase 2 grants from the National Cancer Institute totaling more than $1.8 million. Other funding has come from Georgia Research Alliance and VentureLab.

The market is right for a company like Vivonetics. Of an estimated $682 billion in revenue reported by the global drug development industry, $126 billion was generated within the biotechnology sector for 2006. The in-vitro diagnostic market reported $21 billion in revenue (2003) with $2.2 billion specifically in molecular diagnostics. The areas in which Vivonetics is working – infectious diseases, immune disease, cancer and hematology – account for 36 percent of the pie.

“We can create drug discovery research tools with this technology that assess genetic transcripts, screen for drugs in living cells, assess levels of toxicity and isolate characterized cells and tissues,” Doan said. “This will be of great value to the pharmaceutical industry.”

Vivonetics will also market diagnostic kits that can detect biomarkers in clinical samples. According to Doan, existing in-vitro diagnostics are limited by turn-around time, sensitivity, availability of commercial probes and non-standardized methods.

Vivonetics is located on the Georgia Tech campus in the ATDC Biosciences Center. The company plans to use its startup time to build relations with academic and pharmaceutical experts for its research programs, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, viral infection and stem cells.

“During this initial phase, we are optimizing our core technologies while understanding the ins and outs, the advantages and disadvantages, to applying the technique,” Doan said. “We will develop molecular beacon assays and hence commercialize our technologies. The academic research community is just now beginning to use it, and in another five years or so, pharmaceuticals will adopt our technologies.”

Vivonetics expects to be manufacturing and distributing diagnostic kits and research tools and assays to customers within the next five years. It is anticipated that the company will take off exponentially once its products are validated and others begin using it.

Doan expects that Vivonetics’ association with ATDC will help propel the company to the next stage: “It is important for us as a young company to be able to tap into the experts within ATDC, whether it’s in venture capital, marketing or sales. We will be able to access the local and state community for fundraising and networking opportunities without having to reinvent the wheel.”

Vivonetics is a graduate company of VentureLab, a one-stop center for technology innovation that provides comprehensive assistance to Georgia Tech faculty members, research staff members and graduate students who want to form startup companies to commercialize innovative technology. Formed in 2001 and part of Georgia Tech’s Commercialization Services, VentureLab builds on more than 25 years of experience at the ATDC.

About the ATDC: The Advanced Technology Development Center is a nationally-recognized science and technology incubator that helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies. ATDC provides strategic business advice and connects its member companies to the people and resources they need to succeed.

More than 110 companies have emerged from the ATDC, including publicly-traded firms such as MindSpring Enteprises – now part of EarthLink. Headquartered at Technology Square on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, ATDC has been recognized by both BusinessWeek and Inc. magazines as among the nation’s top nonprofit incubators. Since 1999, ATDC companies have attracted more than a billion dollars in venture capital funding.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

 

Companies from Georgia Tech’s Science & Technology Incubator Attract $1 Billion in Venture Funding

Companies associated with Georgia Tech’s science and technology incubator have raised more than a billion dollars in venture capital since 1999 – and in 2006 accounted for 10 of the top 25 venture deals in Georgia, including the two largest.

The incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), has turned out 112 science and technology companies since 1986 – including 31 that have been represented on the public markets through IPOs or acquisitions.

At a May 10 event held to showcase the incubator’s companies, ATDC “graduated” six early-stage firms – three Internet companies, two semiconductor firms and a developer of homeland security technology.  Together, those six early-stage firms raised more than $50 million while in the incubator.

“ATDC is a source of exciting deal flow, and we have invested in many ATDC companies,” said Fred Sturgis, managing director of Miami-based venture capital firm H.I.G. Ventures, a $4 billion fund.  “ATDC attracts leading entrepreneurs in Georgia and increases the probability of success for its companies.”

The billion dollars raised by ATDC companies included 160 deals in 75 companies from 138 venture investors.  The average deal size was $6.7 million, though funding amounts varied, with 32 companies raising less than $5 million and 10 raising more than $25 million.   More than 90 of the 160 deals involved investors from outside Georgia.

“ATDC is an invaluable resource to Georgia, as the leading organization for advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship,” said Susan O’Dwyer, national director of venture capital research for PricewaterhouseCoopers.  “Over its 26-year history, ATDC’s staff has provided hundreds of entrepreneurs at early-stage companies with the right experience, business planning advice and networking resources needed to grow their companies – while contributing to Georgia’s reputation for innovation.”

ATDC companies accounted for one of every five venture capital deals done in Georgia over the last eight years, and 15 percent of the total dollars raised in the state.  The one billion includes funds raised by companies throughout their growth, including their time in the incubator and after they graduated.  The amount does not include the value of mergers and acquisitions – which would add another $830 million in shareholder value.

While Georgia has pursued traditional economic development strategies, it has also made substantial, long-term investments in supporting startup companies.  In 2005, ATDC companies – including both graduates and current members – generated $1.7 billion in revenues and provided 4,326 jobs.

The incubator is an example of how universities are making an increasingly important contribution to local and state economies, noted Wayne Hodges, vice provost for Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute – ATDC’s parent organization.

“Through ATDC, Georgia Tech is helping build a strong community of experienced entrepreneurs,” Hodges noted.  “The billion-dollar celebration demonstrates that the strategy of supporting the development and growth of startup companies has paid off for the state.”

About a quarter of ATDC companies grew out of technology developed at Georgia Tech.  Two of the 2007 graduates, Jacket Micro Devices and Qcept Technologies, got their start in the Georgia Tech VentureLab program, an initiative that helps form companies from research innovations.

At the May 10 event, VentureLab graduated seven companies, of which three – Asankya, Sentrinsic and Vivonetics – have already been accepted into the ATDC.

“Because of its focus on real-world applications, Georgia Tech’s research program generates a large number of innovations – nearly one a day – that have potential commercial value,” Hodges added.  “We want to move those innovations in the marketplace, through startups where those make sense and through transferring technology to existing companies.”

For more information about the ATDC’s billion-dollar milestone, please visit (www.atdc.org/billion/).

About the ATDC:  The Advanced Technology Development Center is a nationally-recognized science and technology incubator that helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies.  ATDC provides strategic business advice and connects its member companies to the people and resources they need to succeed.

More than 110 companies have emerged from the ATDC, including publicly-traded firms such as MindSpring Enteprises – now part of EarthLink.  Headquartered at Technology Square on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, ATDC has been recognized by both BusinessWeek and Inc. Magazines as among the nation’s top nonprofit incubators.  Since 1999, ATDC companies have attracted more than a billion dollars in venture capital funding.

ATDC Facts

1) As of June 2007, ATDC had 34 member companies in its program.  The companies are working in the following technologies:

* Software and Information Technology – 38 percent
* Bioscience and Health Care – 26 percent
* Electronics – 21 percent
* New Media and the Internet – 15 percent

2) ATDC companies do business in four Georgia cities:

* Atlanta (25 companies)
* Columbus (1 company)
* Savannah (5 companies
* Warner Robins (3 companies)

3) Ten of the top 25 venture capital deals included in the MoneyTree™ Report for 2006 involved ATDC companies.  (The report is a collaboration between PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data provided by Thomson Financial.)  The five largest deals involving ATDC companies were:

* Air2Web ($25 million)
* CardioMEMS ($22.6 million)
* EGT ($14 million)
* Jacket Micro Devices ($12 million)
* iVivity ($9.9 million)

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon

Georgia Tech Engineer Wins Manufacturing Assistance Award

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) has named Ed Hardison as a “Practitioner of the Year,” one of only five to be chosen nationwide. A principal research associate with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, Hardison accepted the award at MEP’s recent national conference in Orlando, Fla.

Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, MEP is a national network of not-for-profit centers in nearly 350 locations that helps U.S. manufacturers compete globally by strengthening supply chains and increasing productivity. The practitioner award recognizes individuals whose leadership and contributions have made a significant impact on small and medium-sized manufacturers.

This past year, Hardison completed energy assessments for 11 manufacturers in seven different states that resulted in more than $7 million in energy savings opportunities. Hardison, who is based in the Georgia Tech Albany office, has expertise in quality issues, energy conservation and management, environmental management and community economic development.

“Ed has demonstrated a commitment to lifelong learning and a pursuit of excellence in the delivery of service and technical assistance to manufacturers. He has always been a team player and worked effectively in both leading and supporting roles in manufacturing assistance projects,” said Chris Downing, director of industry services for the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “His heartfelt efforts have helped many Georgia manufacturers adopt new technologies and business practices that have allowed them to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace.”

Hardison has been employed at Georgia Tech since 1979, where he holds one of the Institute’s highest research titles, Principal Research Associate. He is a registered professional engineer in Georgia and Florida, and is also a Certified Registrar Accreditation Board Quality Management Systems Lead Auditor and Environmental Systems Auditor.

“To win this award at a national level is a direct reflection of the work we do at Georgia Tech and the impact we create. To continue winning these awards is a reflection of the high standards we have as an organization for ‘just doing our jobs,’” Hardison noted. “Over the last 27 plus years at Georgia Tech I have worked with a lot of good people and it’s their support and assistance that have allowed me to contribute to the impact that Georgia Tech is making in business and industry.”

In addition to his work in energy assessments, Hardison has also successfully helped companies obtain quality and environmental management system registration; conducted environmental compliance audits; and published a program guide for communities on developing an existing industry program. He received a Bachelor of Science in engineering and a Master of Science in engineering from Florida Technological University, now University of Central Florida.

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center Wins National Award

Georgia Tech’s Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) was honored with the 2006-2007 Outstanding Center Award by the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC) at the Association’s annual meeting in Detroit on March 28. Of the 93 centers eligible for the award, GTPAC was judged by a panel of peers across the country as the nation’s top performing center.

“The award recognizes the significant contributions by all of the GTPAC team toward developing and maintaining a top quality level of client assistance and outreach efforts,” said Zack Osborne, GTPAC program director. “Without the strong performance by each counselor and determined clients, this achievement would not have been possible.”

GTPAC – part of the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute – provides no-cost assistance with government procurement to any company licensed to do business in Georgia. Last year, GTPAC conducted seminars in Albany, Atlanta, Augusta, Carrollton, Columbus, Gainesville, Rockmart, Savannah and Warner Robins. The Center assists companies with all aspects of federal, state and local government procurement processes, including solicitation analysis, proposal preparation, pre- and post-award counseling, and quality and accounting systems. Procurement counselors also analyze whether or not the company has the potential for government procurement.

Since 1986, GTPAC has helped hundreds of Georgia companies successfully compete in the government markets with contract awards exceeding $3.9 billion. These contract awards have resulted in the retention or creation of some 89,141 jobs. In 2006, GTPAC assisted clients in their efforts to win more than $1 billion in contracts, which translated to more than 20,000 jobs saved or created. Also in 2006, GTPAC assisted more than 2,000 clients and had more than 400 new clients enter the government market. During the same time period, GTPAC sponsored 88 seminars and assisted in 42 other outreach events.

Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Basic Economic Development Course Celebrates 40 Years

Over the past 40 years, more than 2,500 economic developers have taken their first career steps at Georgia Tech. The Basic Economic Development Course, presented by the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute and accredited by the International Economic Development Council, began in 1967 as the first course of its kind in the country. This year’s course will be held March 13-16 at Georgia Tech’s Global Learning and Conference Center.

“We are proud to be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Basic Economic Development Course here at Georgia Tech,” said Martha Schoonmaker, manager of professional development at the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “Georgia Tech was founded in the 1880s to promote the economic development of the state of Georgia, and that gives the Basic Course even more credibility as we continue to advance economic developers’ careers and communities nationwide.”

Nearly 100 participants will explore a number of core topics during the four-day course, including: community development; strategic planning; marketing and attraction; business retention and expansion; workforce development; organizational management; finance; real estate development and reuse; strategic planning; marketing; workforce development; creating entrepreneurs; and trends in economic development. The program is especially designed for new professionals with public and private agencies, chamber of commerce staff, public utilities personnel, local elected officials and volunteers supporting economic development.

This year’s program will also feature a special guest: Bob Cassell, director of Georgia Tech’s Basic Economic Development Course from its inception in 1967 until 1993. Cassell served as a principal research scientist at the Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Laboratory, where he authored numerous economic analyses and edited the Georgia Development News for 15 years. He has conducted seminars and workshops on community and industrial development and evaluation procedures throughout the United States.

For more information on this course and other professional development services offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, contact Martha Schoonmaker (404-894-0332); E-mail: (martha.schoonmaker@innovate.gatech.edu); or visit www.innovate.gatech.edu/bedc2007.

Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Explosive Growth: Georgia Tech Helps Small Ammunition Maker Get on Track to Become Military Supplier

Polywad Inc., a small middle-Georgia ammunition manufacturer, is poised for some rapid growth thanks to a recent Department of Defense contract — and broad-ranging assistance from Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Macon, Ga.-based Polywad, maker of patented Spred-R ammunition and other shotgun products, is gearing up to make specialized rounds for the U.S. military. Critical to the move are a pair of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants totaling $1.9 million.

That funding is helping Polywad build and equip a new manufacturing plant in Roberta, Ga., near Macon. Company officials expect to transfer operations to the new site soon and to increase their work force significantly.

“We’re excited to be moving into a new purpose-built shop that’s going to have all the safety and security features the Department of Defense requires,” said Jay Menefee, Polywad’s founder and president. “We expect to soon be making these custom loads in quantity, and we’ll be employing more Macon-area workers to do it.”

SBIR funding comes from federal agencies such as the Department of Defense; its purpose is to use small businesses to develop new technologies and products that the agencies need.  In Polywad’s case, the grants were facilitated by the Enterprise Innovation Institute, a business-assistance and economic development group based at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The Enterprise Innovation Institute has also supported Polywad by providing advisers in business planning, quality control and manufacturing technology.

“Polywad is among the Georgia companies that the Enterprise Innovation Institute has been able to assist on multiple levels,” said John Mills, manager of the SBIR Assistance Program for the State of Georgia, a division of the Enterprise Innovation Institute that helps companies win SBIR grants. Mills and other Enterprise Innovation Institute staff members helped Polywad with SBIR applications and in developing the means to manufacture the company’s innovative products.

Polywad’s business began in 1985 when Menefee started selling a unique device he’d invented to people who reload ammunition by hand.  The Spred-R, a plastic insert that makes shot pellets spread quickly, found a market with sportsmen.

Menefee ran the business out of his home until 1995, when he plunged full-time into making specialty shotgun rounds along with hand-loading supplies. Today Polywad manufactures many shot-shell products available to the public.

But the company also makes a special round, the Polyshok, that’s available only to law enforcement and similar agencies.  The unusual shell unites Polywad’s shot-spreader device with a metal-powder slug, also known as an impact-reactor projectile, or IRP.  The law-enforcement shell is sold through an associated company, Polyshok Inc.

The Polyshok round devastates its target, but only in a limited area. The metal-powder slug’s energy disperses so quickly that it’s usually harmless even to persons in close proximity or immediately behind the target, according to Menefee.  Police sometimes even use the round to blast through doors because it’s effective yet has minimal ricochet risk.

The Polyshok shell is the brainchild of Charles Glover, a North Carolina-based inventor who saw the Spred-R’s potential in developing limited-damage rounds useful to law enforcement.  Glover, Menefee and Jim Middleton, Menefee’s brother-in-law, formed Polyshok Inc. in Panama City, Fla., in 1998.  By 2001 they had perfected the Polyshok round and were manufacturing it at Polywad’s Georgia site.

“If a Polyshok slug misses its intended target and hits a wall behind, it becomes non-lethal within two feet from the point where it penetrated the wall,,” explains Middleton, who worked for many years as a DoD civilian manager. “It has as much power as a 12-gauge slug, but without the over-penetration problems.”

Relatively light recoil and low cost add to its utility to law enforcement, he added.

Menefee and Middleton stress Georgia Tech’s role in helping Polywad’s progress.

John Mills provided extensive help in preparing Polyshok’s SBIR Phase I and Phase II proposals, Menefee recalls.  And several other Enterprise Innovation Institute employees have also provided key expertise and assistance.

George Lee, of the Macon Regional Office, provided noise measurement assistance and other help.  Alan Barfoot, of the Dublin, Ga., Regional Office, helped Polywad find a new manufacturing site.  And Don Betts helped develop a joint research project between Polywad and the Center of Innovation for Manufacturing Excellence.

On the technical side, Dennis Kelly of the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Industry Services Division is working with Polywad to develop a manufacturing quality-control system that will meet DoD requirements while Mark Heflin will help Polywad automate the manufacturing process.  And the Center of Innovation for Manufacturing Excellence will support the automation process by supplying expertise in programmable logic controllers.

“We’ve got a year or so left to work on this project before we begin manufacturing,” Menefee said. “It’s going to be a really efficient setup for high-speed, flawless loading of a military cartridge.”

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia  30308  USA

Media Relations Contacts: Rick Robinson (404-694-2284); E-mail (rick.robinson@innovate.gatech.edu) or John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Rick Robinson

Technology Entrepreneurs Accelerate Business in FastTrac TechVenture Program

“Cajuns use the word lagniappe to mean a little something extra,” explained native Louisianan Dave Bernard, vice president and co-founder of The Intellection Group, based in Duluth. “And that’s what I feel like we got with FastTrac. Every entrepreneur should go through this program.”

Last fall, The Intellection Group and 16 other companies were accepted into FastTrac® TechVenture™, a comprehensive business training program that addresses the needs of startup technology entrepreneurs. The inaugural 12-week program, licensed by the Kauffman Foundation, was presented by Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) and the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). Participants heard from guest speakers and mentors on subjects such as defining target markets, conducting market research and analysis, planning for financial success, protecting intellectual property, identifying funding and managing cash, among others.

“There was a lot of preparation and homework for each class, and for a small company, the investment can be a strain,” said Bernard, whose startup technology company produces customized software applications. “That being said, it was worth 10 times what it cost. We were able to better position ourselves and make a better pitch. The networking alone pushed our company forward 12 to 18 months.”

According to Cindy Cheatham, director of business development for ATDC, the 17 FastTrac companies were chosen from a select group of 50 applicants, creating an environment of strong, committed entrepreneurs. The program concluded with a graduation in which each company presented a 60-second elevator pitch that incorporated lessons learned. Some of the “most fundable” companies presented focused, five-minute investor presentations to the graduation audience of angel investors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and event sponsors.

“Overall the program was a great success for the companies and the community,” Cheatham noted. “Companies sharpened their plans and impressed investors, which led to more than a dozen in-person meetings and built a community of mentors and entrepreneur peers.”

One such mentor who participated with FastTrac was Emma Morris, founding partner of The Morris Group, a strategy and execution consulting firm. She says she got involved with the program because she wanted to give back to the community that helped her get her start, something she says is critical to growing leadership within the technology community. Other mentors who participated included Steve Bachman, Ilaria Derr, Jeff Hoffman, Greg Peters and Jim Stratigos.

“None of us got to wherever we are today without the help of a lot of wonderful mentors. One of my mentors once told me, ‘I can help you avoid the mistakes I made, but you are on your own for the new ones,’” she recalled. “FastTrac is a way to be that mentor to five companies at once. Plus, I learned a lot from the other mentors. Most of us are going so fast on a daily basis that we don’t take time to do peer-to-peer learning. This gave us weekly time to do just that before, during and after the meetings each week.”

Morris acknowledged the intensity of the workshop, but encouraged young entrepreneurs to stick with the program: “It is a bit like drinking out of a fire hose for both mentors and participants – just like the real world of starting a company. You never have time to fully digest any single event or thought before the next crisis or opportunity hits, which is great training for the day-to-day life of an entrepreneur.”

Sanjay Bhatia is CEO and founder of Izenda, an enterprise web 2.0 startup that makes it possible for business users to generate custom reports without involving IT. He agrees that the training provided by FastTrac added tremendous momentum to his company’s growth. Izenda has recently been accepted into ATDC.

“It was an amazing experience,” he said. “The program enabled us to target a larger market than we otherwise would have been able to, and the networking opportunities were incredible. Any entrepreneur starting a company needs to think about these issues.”

Bernard echoed Bhatia’s sentiments: “Now I have an informed network of advisors. It’s a very giving network and it makes me want to help others. This experience has been the equivalent of gaining access to ATDC – and all the unexpected benefits that come with that – without being an ATDC company.”

ATDC will begin accepting applications for the next FastTrac® TechVenture™ in July with the program targeted to begin in late August.  For more information, go to www.atdc.org/fasttrac).

Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright