The launch, on March 24, followed several years of the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s collaborative work in Latin America, including in Colombia. Efforts there have brought together private industry, higher education, and economic development organizations to help grow economies.
The new center is the fourth for Georgia Tech, which also has innovation centers in Panama, Singapore, and China.
“Medellín holds much promise and great potential as an incubator for business expertise,” Juli Golemi, director of EI2 Global, said of the city’s selection. “I’m excited to see how this center helps boost economic development in the area.”
Startups — especially ones that are scaling rapidly — will have the potential to generate faster job growth and economic development for Medellín and its entire region. Georgia Tech and its partners are working at the center to identify and mitigate the most immediate constraining factors that limit the innovation ecosystem.
“Among the first activities of the Medellín Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center are to work collaboratively and hands-on on the most immediate key factors identified by Georgia Tech and its partners to help the ecosystem grow and prosper,” said Viviana Montenegro, program manager with EI2 Global. “It is very rewarding to see the local commitment and support for this initiative.”
The center will coordinate regular events, deliver courses, provide training programs to address gaps and boost the city’s talent opportunities, and bring together resources to support the Medellín entrepreneurship community. As a part of Georgia Tech, the center will connect the Medellín community to the Institute’s vast resources including world-class research, state-of-the-art facilities, internationally recognized experts, and top student talent.
This initiative is supported by corporate and university partners Bancolombia, Celsia, Globant, Crystal, Sura, Comfama, Conconcreto, ProAntioquia, Microsoft, TCC, Cámara de Comercio de Medellín para Antioquia, Alianza Team, Iluma, Universidad CES, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Universidad EIA, and Universidad EAFIT.
“The center’s vision is to build strong and lasting multilateral collaborations across sectors, including nonprofit organizations, universities, startups, and corporations,” said David Bridges, Enterprise Innovation Institute vice president. “Together, these groups will bring greater awareness of entrepreneurs and innovators as an integral part of Medellín’s economy.”
A group from the Enterprise Innovation Institute recently volunteered at Open Hand Atlanta
On a recent Friday, a contingent of Enterprise Innovation Institute employees explored the idea of well-being at Open Hand Atlanta, a nonprofit organization that provides food for people with disabilities and chronic disease. Its mission: We cook. We deliver. We teach. We care.
The event was organized by the well-being committee, which has taken on the challenge of trying to bring people in the various programs in the Enterprise Innovation Institute together with events that strengthen the organization while improving the well-being of employees.
“Well-being is at the heart of what we as an economic development organization do every day,” said Caley Landau, a marketing strategist with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), who is on the well-being committee. “Our goal in our jobs is to make lives better and improve the human condition. Well-being improves employee engagement and experience, sparks creativity and collaboration, and helps us make the greatest impact possible through our programs. It’s also a philosophy that’s personally important to us as members of the community.”
Paul Todd, group manager for operational excellence with GaMEP, worked with Caley to find a team-strengthening activity.
“As part of our focus on well-being, Caley asked me to find a volunteer activity that would bring together employees from across EI² in the service of others,” Todd said. “I was familiar with Open Hand from a series of process improvement projects the GaMEP worked on there in years past, so I knew they had a great mission and a group volunteer program that would fit us well.”
Open Hand has been serving Atlantans for more than three decades. With a full commercial kitchen, staff and volunteers cook, pack, and deliver nutritious meals every day to medically fragile, underserved people, often seniors who live below the poverty line, and rely on the meals and the companionship of the people who deliver them.
In 2022, Open Hand cooked, packed, and delivered 5,000 meals per day, a total of nearly 1.5 million meals across the state, with more than 13,000 volunteer hours. Inflation and a growing need saw a 28% increase in food costs over the past two years. Open Hand’s monthly grocery bill last year was $327,525.
The approximately 30 volunteers from the Enterprise Innovation Institute put together almost 2,000 meals in an assembly line as organized and efficient as any in the for-profit world. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with new people for an important cause.
With remote work continuing, it’s often hard to get to know one another, especially for new employees. So, we’re looking for new ways to make connections. Meet this month’s two new employees, Ward Broom and Alberto Ponce. If you run into them or someone else you don’t know at a meeting or on Zoom or Teams, introduce yourself. Work relationships are important to well-being, and this is just one way to help cultivate those relationships.
Ward Broom, Automation & Robotics Catalyst, Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC)
Ward will oversee the ATDC Automation and Robotics Program — sponsored by Amazon Robotics. He will recruit startups, coach and mentor them, and market the program to those entrepreneurs looking to build and scale technology companies in the robotics or automation sectors.
A triple graduate of Georgia Tech, Ward earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and an Executive MBA. One of his sons is also a Tech grad with degrees in civil engineering and computer science.
He loves golf and travel – especially trips to the North Carolina mountains, where he can indulge both passions. His wife is a writer and his older son graduated from the Citadel and serves in the Army.
Alberto Ponce, Associate Project Manager, Economic Development Lab (EDL)
Alberto will work in the Innovation Ecosystems group to support projects that develop entrepreneurship ecosystems in Latin America and assist with the Soft Landings program that helps foreign companies navigate their way into the U.S. market.
Alberto has experience running entrepreneurship programs and as an entrepreneur himself. Most recently, he served as the innovation center coordinator at the Medical Center of the Americas in El Paso, Texas.
A native of Mexico, Alberto exercises his creativity in his off time. He enjoys reading, watching classic and contemporary films, listening to music, and playing chess.
With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico, Alberto looks forward to working on projects that help enrich communities around the world.
The grant supports the creation of curriculum and tools to empower disadvantaged communities and instill equity
ATLANTA — Global climate change is causing an increase in the frequency, severity, and persistence of destructive weather events. These events coupled with economic- and health-related crises have exacerbated disproportionate effects and inequitable outcomes for vulnerable populations.
To help mitigate these outcomes, Georgia Institute of Technology will work with Alliance Solutions Group (ASG) to create a training and education curriculum that fosters partnerships, information sharing, and problem solving among community-based organizations, local and state leaders, first responders, economic development organizations, and emergency managers.
“We are seeing more and more severe weather events, many of them having a disproportionate impact on small and underserved communities in our country,” said David Bridges, vice president of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “This is an opportunity to use our expertise and networks to help communities that have been hit hardest solve this growing crisis.”
Supported by a three-year funding award of $1.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the training will provide community leaders with the tools and resources to develop climate adaptation strategies that will empower disadvantaged communities and instill equity.
“Our needs analysis identified training gaps that compound existing inequities and highlight the need for systemic solutions to improve climate literacy and better integrate underserved populations into all elements of the National Preparedness System,” said Bob Campbell, founder and CEO of ASG. “This education series will support communities around the country in fostering partnerships to develop and implement equitable climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.”
ASG, a Newport News, Virginia-based company that provides innovative emergency management and environmental solutions to the public, private, and defense sectors, is partnering with the Enterprise Innovation Institute and Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the research, development, and delivery of the training.
“I am excited to contribute to these courses on climate resilience with lessons we have learned developing a course at Georgia Tech on using climate information to improve the resilience of coastal communities to sea level rise,” said Alex Robel, assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, who will be part of the team developing content. “Our goal is to disseminate best practices to emergency management agencies around the U.S.”
FEMA developed the grant to further implementation of its goals to instill equity in emergency management and lead the country in climate resilience.
“This is an important opportunity for Georgia Tech to build on its experience with the Smart Sea Level Sensors project in Chatham County that provides real-time information on sea level rise to underserved communities,” said Doreen Kincaid, the project manager on the grant. “It will also allow Georgia Tech and ASG to leverage their partnership and experience on two previous FEMA grants related to hazardous materials and economic recovery to develop and deliver a training program with measurable results.”
National in scope with a mix of virtual and in-person delivery, the training courses will be available in all 50 states, six territories, and 573 Native American communities. In support of the Justice40 Initiative, President Joe Biden’s order to direct 40% of the benefits of federal investments related to climate change and training to disadvantaged communities, the team will prioritize training for those communities. As courses are completed and ready for delivery, they will be posted in FEMA’s National Training and Educational Division online catalogue.
As community leaders complete training, they will be equipped to conduct climate risk and social vulnerability assessments, outline strategies for incorporating vulnerable populations into plans, develop risk communication strategies, establish plans to stabilize community lifelines, and understand and apply climate forecasts into emergency management programs.
About Georgia Tech
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is one of the top public research universities in the U.S., developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its more than 46,000 students, representing 50 states and more than 150 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.
About the Enterprise Innovation Institute
The Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development unit, serves all of Georgia through a variety of services and programs that build and scale startups, grow business enterprises, and energize ecosystem builders. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based economic development organization, the Institute’s expertise and reach are global; its innovation, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem development programs serve governments, universities, nonprofits, and other organizations worldwide. In 2021, the Enterprise Innovation Institute served more than 15,500 businesses, communities, and entrepreneurs. Those clients reported startup investment capital exceeding $1.1 billion and creating or saving more than 11,300 jobs. The Enterprise Innovation Institute’s total 2021 financial impact exceeded $2.9 billion. Learn more at innovate.gatech.edu.
About School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
The School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, part of the College of Sciences at Georgia Tech, produces breakthrough discoveries through research and prepares students to advance the knowledge of Earth sciences as they become leaders in academia, government, and industry. EAS applies scientific knowledge and principles to inform and support public policy, resource management, and environmental stewardship. The internationally recognized School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences has delivered 15 climate-related courses to more than 5,000 students over the last 10 years.
About Alliance Solutions Group, Inc.
Alliance Solutions Group (ASG) is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that offers emergency management and environmental, health, and safety solutions to all levels of the public, private, and defense sectors. ASG’s team of strategists, thought leaders, subject matter experts, and instructors have an average of 20+ years of experience in their respective fields. In meeting customers’ needs, ASG leverages thousands of lessons learned, best practices and business processes that have been synthesized over 17 years. Having conducted over 15,000 workplace audits and several thousand training and exercise events, ASG has built a solid understanding of the challenges facing both private and public sector organizations in multiple sectors. ASG’s perspective spans from the local to the global, with offices across the U.S. and throughout the world, and partnerships with municipal, state, federal, military, and private sector clients in 48 states and 17 countries. Learn more at asg-inc.org.
About the Federal Emergency Management Agency
At FEMA, we employ more than 20,000 people nationwide. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we have 10 regional offices located across the country. We leverage a tremendous capacity to coordinate within the federal government to make sure America is equipped to prepare for and respond to disasters. Our mission is helping people before, during and after disasters. Our core values and guiding principles help us achieve it. To learn more, visit fema.gov.
This month, we’re launching a feature to introduce new colleagues at the Enterprise Innovation Institute. With remote work continuing, it’s often hard to get to know one another, so we’re looking for new ways to make connections. If you run into some of these people or someone else you don’t know at a meeting or on Zoom or Teams, introduce yourself. Work relationships are important to well-being, and this is just one way to help cultivate those relationships.
Carnellia Ajasin, Entrepreneur in Residence, Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC)
In her role, Carnellia will support, cultivate, and advise ATDC member companies in ways to help them grow and scale. A particular focus will be companies working in automation and robotics in support of the partnership with Amazon Global Robotics.
Carnellia is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Mind Katalyst, a humanity-centered, tech-innovation, and sustainability venture studio. She was named a 2022 Georgia Titan 100, which recognizes business visionaries in the state.
She stays active outside of work, pursuing interests that include travel, cycling, yoga, and cooking. A graduate of Drexel University in Pennsylvania, Carnellia has a bachelor’s in computer science and a master’s in information science and computer technology.
Marc Carson, Lead Startup Catalyst, ATDC
Marc will lead a team of startup catalysts that provides services to help ATDC companies grow, connect, and scale.
Marc was the founder, president, and CEO of startup Keystone Industries and founder, president and CEO of HOTPACK. He also serves as chair of the planning commission for the city of Braselton, Georgia.
His extensive business experience will go a long way at ATDC, where he looks forward to helping mentor young tech entrepreneurs as they make the tough decisions that will move their companies forward.
A fan of the outdoors, Marc enjoys hunting, fishing, playing golf, and spending time with family. He graduated from Gannon University in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in finance.
“ATDC provides business coaching to help startup founders reach scale,” said ATDC Director John Avery. “We look for coaches who have broad backgrounds in both startups and in large companies. These two worlds are very different, but our goal is to help founders get from one to the other. Both Marc and Carnellia have very successful careers, including experience in both large and small companies. We couldn’t be more excited to have them on the ATDC team.”
Katerina Dimovski, Project Manager, Energy and Sustainability Services, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)
Katerina will provide technical assistance to manufacturers in the areas of energy management and sustainability.
A native of the Republic of North Macedonia, Katerina brings expertise in energy efficiency that will help GaMEP clients manage energy challenges. She worked for nine years as an energy manager in steel production and most recently as a national energy management and energy efficiency consultant for UNIDO, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in North Macedonia.
Outside of work, she enjoys fencing, cycling, and running. She is a graduate of Saints Cyril and Methodius University, in Skopje, North Macedonia, with a bachelor’s in computer system engineering and automation and a master’s in mechanical engineering.
“Katerina’s experience and perspective from working as an energy efficiency consultant for UNIDO and as an energy manager in the steel manufacturing industry, will allow her to advise our clients on energy management best practices and international standards,” said Tim Israel, director of GaMEP. “We are very happy to have her join our team, allowing us to continue to grow our sustainability service offerings for manufacturers.”
Vance Merritt, Project Manager, Process Improvement, South Georgia, GaMEP
Vance will focus on manufacturing clients in South and Central Georgia, by providing services in lean manufacturing, process improvement and stability, lean six sigma, and leading cross-functional teams.
Vance, who lives in Perry, Georgia, has years of leadership experience in manufacturing, most recently as Tennessee plant manager at Metalpha, Bridgestone Tire’s U.S. supplier of steel tire cord.
At the end of the day, World War II history and John Grisham books command his attention. He also enjoys travel and being outdoors. A Georgia Tech grad, with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, Vance is also a certified lean six sigma black belt.
“We are thrilled that Vance will help us expand our network of resources in the south part of the state,” Israel said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge from his previous experience as a plant manager and in other manufacturing leadership roles, that will allow him to help companies navigate many challenges from process improvement to workforce development.”
Kayla Burns, Program and Operations Manager, Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership)
Kayla will oversee development and implementation of the Partnership’s programs and operations. She will work with research, academic, and administrative staff, along with vendors and sponsors, as well as other internal and external partners.
Kayla has nearly a decade of experience in business development, program management, and operations for BlueSprig, which offers services to children with autism, and at HNCS, a company that specializes in home podiatry care for diabetic, geriatric, and other home-bound patients.
She is pursuing a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree program at the University of North Georgia in psychology and industrial and organizational psychology.
Cody will oversee the advancement of student engagement efforts for the Partnership, helping to develop a more inclusive Georgia and the next generation of leaders across the state.
Before joining the Partnership, Cody, who lives in Brunswick, Georgia, served as the interim director of service learning and undergraduate research at the College of Coastal Georgia. He looks forward to bringing the skills he developed there to the Partnership as he works to enhance opportunities for all Georgians.
Working at Georgia Tech is a dream come true for Cody, who grew up a Georgia Tech football and basketball fan. He also enjoys the beach, running, and landscaping. He has a doctorate in education in leadership from Valdosta State University, a master’s in higher education administration from Georgia Southern University, and a bachelor’s in history from Georgia State University.
Polly will develop strategic relationships across the state and work to increase awareness of and support for Partnership programs.
Before joining the Partnership, she worked as the sustainability manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where she directed sustainability initiatives at the world’s busiest airport. She looks forward to bringing her enthusiasm for and expertise in sustainability to her work with the Partnership.
She enjoys kayaking and canoeing, travel, taking art classes, and playing Wingspan. Polly has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Georgia and a master’s in environmental and resource policy from George Washington University.
“We are thrilled that Cody, Polly, and Kayla have joined our leadership team,” said Partnership Executive Director Debra Lam. “Together they will deepen our student and strategic engagement and strengthen our operations so that we can continue our mission of accelerating innovation, opportunity, and shared economic prosperity across the state and beyond.”
Six Georgia Tech students spent the summer working on various economic development projects as embedded Enterprise 6 (E6) interns in the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2).
The six interns were selected from more than 200 students who applied for the slots for the inaugural internship cohort.
The 13-week, paid internship was funded by the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and open to all Tech undergraduate and graduate students.
As Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, EI2 is comprised of a dozen programs across a host of sectors ranging from manufacturing and technology entrepreneurship, to minority business and community and regional planning and development.
“We were really excited about this opportunity and grateful for the support from EVPR’s office,” said David Bridges, EI2’s interim vice president. “We had students from a variety of disciplines including industrial engineering and economics and city planning.
“One of our goals with this was to show these students how they could use what they are learning in the classroom and the skills they are learning all have uses and applications in economic development.”
The students worked on challenging projects that allowed them to use their skills and classroom learning and apply that to economic development initiatives.
Mansi Mahajan, a graduate student studying quantitative and computational finance, interned with the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, a public-private effort launched in 2020 to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the technology capital of the East Coast.
“We’re building a fund for investing in social impact startups, so I developed the financial model for the process and how it would be forecasted and what the returns would be depending on our investments,” she said. “I hadn’t worked in the finance field as much as I did in this internship, so this I found very rewarding and it was a very great experience working with them.”
For Dylan Both, an economics major in the Ivan Allen College for Liberal Arts, the E6 opportunity was his first internship.
Both worked with the Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR), which works with local communities, governments, and regional economic development organizations on a variety of initiatives, including impact analyses reports, strategic planning, and professional development.
Both researched best practices that communities around the country developed following natural disasters to evaluate for a recovery and resilience plan being created for southwest Georgia.
“Southwest Georgia suffered from Hurricane Michael and COVID. I was finding similar areas, similar regions that suffered from a natural disaster. And whatever best practices we learned from those, we gathered them up, chose which ones would be a good fit, and wrote about it,” he said. “My favorite thing was doing actual meaningful work.”
See what all the students shared about their experiences as E6 interns:
The Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), the Georgia Institute of Technology’s chief economic development and growth arm, has named Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F., director of diversity engagement and program development.
In this new role, Ennis will lead efforts to find funding and program opportunities, particularly those with a focus on underrepresented and underserved communities and organizations. As part of her responsibilities, Ennis will ensure that diversity and inclusion are part of each EI2 program’s mission.
“I’m really encouraged and pleased with the development of this new role,” Ennis said. “It signals that Georgia Tech is committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion are central to its mission and that of the Enterprise Innovation Institute.”
Comprised of 11 programs, including the two Atlanta MBDA centers, EI2 is the oldest, largest, and most diverse university-based economic development and economic growth organization. With a history that spans more than 60 years, EI2 has expanded to serve innovative enterprises of all sizes in Georgia and beyond.
EI2’s client portfolio includes pre-company, technology-focused entrepreneurs, startups, and existing businesses, as well as communities, governments, universities, and nonprofit organizations.
“We have a wide variety of clients and focus areas from manufacturers and startups, to universities and minority-owned firms to municipal governments. Diversity and inclusion efforts need to be an integral part of our outreach, not only in terms of the types of clients we serve, but also in leveraging EI2’s resources toward bringing more diverse business relationships to Georgia Tech as a whole,” said David Bridges, EI2 interim vice president. “This furthers our overall economic development mission and mandate to serve all of Georgia and ensures we are reaching out to all of its communities.”
For example, the U.S. Department of Commerce MBDA recently awarded EI2 a grant to launch the Southeast MBDA Inner City Innovation Hub. This initiative includes the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), the EI2 program that serves as the state of Georgia’s technology incubator. “With ATDC serving as one of the major partners in the Hub, we now have two ATDC startup catalysts who are focused on ensuring that the minority business community is more engaged in ATDC,” Ennis said.
She stressed the diversity and inclusion discussion is broader than race and gender. “It’s inclusive of people from rural Georgia, veterans, older citizens, the disabled, and members of the LGBT community, among others,” she said. It’s developing a culture where everyone is not only included but more importantly, are welcomed and feel like they belong.”
One of Ennis’ current projects is participating in Tech’s Diversity and Inclusion in Procurement Working Group. “Initiatives like these are examples of the commitment Georgia Tech has made to diversity and inclusion in all areas of the Institute,” Ennis said.
“As a leading higher education research institute, Georgia Tech has ensured that diversity and inclusion are part of it strategic mission. And as an employee who has seen Georgia Tech evolve in many ways over my 30-year career here, I must admit that it’s a really exciting time.”
The Georgia Institute of Technology has named Karen Fite interim vice president of its economic development unit, the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2).
Fite, who is EI²’s associate vice president, will lead the 12-program organization while Georgia Tech conducts a national search for a permanent vice president to succeed Chris Downing, who retired in June after 31 years of service.
EI2is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development.
Fite, who also is director of EI2’s Business & Industry Services group of programs, has more than 26 years of economic development experience at Tech.
“As director of business and industry services, Karen has successfully provided leadership in critical areas of economic development. We have full confidence that she will continue EI2’s momentum and reach in Georgia and beyond as we conduct the search for a permanent vice president,” said Chaouki Abdallah, Georgia Tech’s executive vice president for research.
“She brings an enormous wealth of expertise and critical understanding to economic development and how to connect businesses, manufacturers, and communities to Georgia Tech’s vast innovation and technology resources to elevate their competitive position and economic impact.”
With state and federal support, for example, EI2’s 160-member staff operate a statewide network of assistance to Georgia manufacturers through the GaMEP and supports commercialization of Georgia Tech faculty research via its VentureLab offering.
A globally recognized model for university-based economic development, EI2— through its Economic Development Lab program — is tapped across the state, nationally, and internationally to help communities and organization innovate in business incubation and commercialization, strategic planning, and economic sustainability.
Other programs include assisting in the growth and development of technology startups through the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), serving minority-owned businesses, and advising companies across the Southeast that have been affected by foreign trade.
Previously, Fite was GaMEP’s state regional network manager and led a team of 10 regional managers in their outreach efforts.
She was an RAB-certified Quality Management Systems Lead Auditor, and as a member of the Center for International Standards and Quality (CISQ), she provided implementation assistance and training to companies pursuing ISO 9001. She has expertise in assisting companies in the implementation of Lean Principles in manufacturing, government and healthcare entities.
Her earlier experience includes the application of industrial and management engineering, employee involvement, and business principles.
Fite has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami and a bachelor’s in health systems from Georgia Tech.In 2018, she achieved the faculty rank of principal extension professional, the Georgia Tech’s highest professional extension faculty rank.
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.
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.
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.”