Karen Fite to Lead Enterprise Innovation Institute as Interim Vice President

Karen Fite.

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.

 

The Business & Industry Services group includes the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), EI2’s largest economic development offering.

 

It also includes:

 

“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, 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.

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.”

Georgia Tech hosts Argentina IT delegation

(From left) Mary Waters, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development; Argentina Consul General Jorge Luis Lopez Menardi; Fernanda Yanson of the Argentina Investment and International Trade Agency, and Juli Golemi, manager of Georgia Tech’s Soft Landings Program. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

The Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), the Georgia Institute of Technology’s the economic development arm, hosted a delegation of 12 technology companies from Argentina, as part of a multi-city tour to study successful innovation ecosystems.

 

The 2018 Argentina IT Commercial Mission to Atlanta’s Sept. 18 visit, sponsored by the Consulate General of Argentina and the Argentine American Chamber of Commerce, is designed to give insight into the Atlanta economy and as part of the 12 companies’ longer-term goal of establishing U.S. operations, said Argentina Consul General Jorge Luis Lopez Menardi.

 

“They’re looking for places to come and explore the possibilities of doing business,” Lopez Menardi said. “We thought the best place for them to come especially regarding an IT  mission would be to come to Georgia Tech. The prestige of the university, the talent and the innovation they are promoting from here, we decided the best place to hold the mission would be here.”

 

While on campus, the group met with Juli Golemi, manager of the Soft Landings Program at EI2.

 

Juli Golemi, Georgia Tech’s Soft Landings Program manager, addresses some of the issues foreign companies wanting to do business in the United States face. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

Soft Landings, launched in 2018, is a Georgia Tech offering — through its Economic Development Lab (EDL) — that helps foreign companies that want to establish or increase their business operations in Georgia or better understand the U.S. economy. EDL helps communities and organizations apply innovative ideas to economic development in business incubation and commercialization, strategic planning, and economic sustainability.

 

Soft Landings, Lopez Menardi said, offers what the visiting companies need as they explore doing business in Atlanta and the United States. The group, which includes companies in financial technology, virtual reality, cybersecurity, and gaming, wants to “get to know the environment, how to do business here, and how companies procure here,” Lopez Menardi said, adding they will use what they learn on this fact-finding trip to better prepare them for possible U.S. expansion and connections with American companies.

 

“They will want to build top from that and come up again with a specific plan of business to offer different companies,” he said, adding the group, which will visit Tech’s incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), will also visit Chicago to learn about its innovation ecosystem.

 

In a panel discussion that included Mary Waters, deputy commissioner of international trade at the Georgia Department of Economic Development; Fernanda Yanson, a foreign trade consultant with the Argentina Investment and International Trade Agency; Lopez Menardi, and Golemi, attendees learned about the different components of Georgia’s successful ecosystem.

 

Among those components: strong public and private partnerships between state government and industry, a friendly business climate, inter-state agency collaboration, unique assets such as Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and economic diversification, Waters said.

 

Georgia Department of Economic Development Deputy Commissioner Mary Waters explains why Georgia’s focus on innovation is factors into the state being consistently ranked as one of the best places in which to do business. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

“Georgia’s economy is very diverse. We’re strong in agribusiness, we’re strong in aerospace, logistics, medical technologies, ICT, and automotive,” she said.

 

Underscoring that success model is technology, Waters said, noting the construction boom in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood and how Georgia Tech plays a critical role in that innovation-driven growth and expansion.

 

“Home Depot, Anthem, Delta Air Lines, Mercedes-Benz — they’re all creating innovation certners here in Atlanta and here in Georgia to take advantage of the Georgia Tech talent that we have. Those are companies and expansions that were not on our radar 10 years ago that now underpin the heart and soul of the Atlanta economy and Georgia’s economy,” Waters said.

 

“Whether you’re talking about automation technology in the manufacturing space or whether you’re talking about tech in agriculture and agribusiness, or innovation in the development of new technologies that will change the world, Georgia is very much in the heart of that and it gets to the heart of what you’re going to hear from Juli and the rest of Georgia Tech and from the private companies you will meet.”

Entrepreneurship group recognizes Enterprise Innovation Institute with award

InBIA Award

From left, Charles Ross, vice president for economic development and community at Kennesaw State University; Juli Golemi, senior project manager at EI2‘s Innovation Ecosystems program, and Kirstie Chadwick, InBIA’s president and CEO.

The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA), a global non-profit organization that serves entrepreneurship centers, program managers, directors, and policymakers in guiding and developing sustainable entrepreneur support programs, awarded the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) for being a longtime and dedicated member of the organization.

 

EI2 is the Georgia Institute of Technology’s chief business outreach and economic development organization. Its mission — through a comprehensive suite of programs and offerings — is to help business, industry, entrepreneurs, and economic developers across Georgia grow and remain competitive.

 

EI2 been an InBIA member for more than 30 years.

 

The award was presented at InBIA’s International Conference on Business Incubation in Seattle, Washington, which was held in late March 2017.

 

InBIA recently named EI2 a Soft Landings site, a designation which recognizes entrepreneurship centers that excel in providing international companies with various services to ensure a smooth landing in the United States.

Enterprise Innovation Institute receives Soft Landings designation

cFfNSrEyThe International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) designated the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) as a Soft Landings site.

 

InBIA is a global non-profit organization that serves entrepreneurship centers, program managers, directors and policymakers, by helping to guide and develop viable entrepreneur support programs across a host of industries.

 

The Soft Landings designation recognizes entrepreneurship centers that excel in providing international companies with various services to ensure a smooth landing in the United States. The designation was given to a select group of U.S. and international entrepreneurship centers and is effective for two years.

 

EI2 is the Georgia Institute of Technology’s chief business outreach and economic development organization. Its core mission is to help business, industry, entrepreneurs, and economic developers across Georgia grow and remain competitive.

 

In the last several years, EI2 has worked with several international companies and clients through its Startup Ecosystems program, which works with communities and organizations to analyze and apply innovation-based ideas to drive economic development.

 

“We are pleased that we were able to receive this valuable designation from InBIA, it will serve to open more opportunities for companies and entrepreneurs to consider Georgia as a landing spot for their U.S. market entrance,” said Lynne Henkiel, Startup Ecosystems’ director of innovation ecosystems practices. “This designation will bring a new level of exposure for international companies looking to establish themselves in the U.S., and specifically Atlanta in the heart of our innovative ecosystem here at Georgia Tech.”

Georgia Institute of Technology selects Chris Downing to head Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2)

Chris Downing, Vice President, Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Chris Downing, Vice President, Enterprise Innovation Institute.

 

The Georgia Institute of Technology has named Chris Downing vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), effective immediately.

The announcement ends a six-month national search for a new vice president, following Stephen Fleming’s decision to step down from the position in December 2015. As the Institute’s chief business outreach organization, EI2 is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development.

 

Downing will report directly to Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for Research at Georgia Tech.

 

“I am thankful for this opportunity and I remain focused on our core mission at EI2 to fulfill Georgia Tech’s commitment to economic development,” Downing said. “Working with the dedicated professionals at EI2, we will enhance Georgia Tech’s work in designing the future through our service to entrepreneurs, business, researchers, innovators, and the people of Georgia.”

 

Downing had served as EI2’s associate vice president since 2012 and as interim vice president since October 2015. He has been at Georgia Tech in various leadership roles related to economic development since 1988.

 

“EI2, including its multiple programs that support Georgia startups, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs across the state, serves all aspects of economic development in Georgia. It is a vital component of the innovation ecosystem we have built at Tech Square,” Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson said. “Chris has worked diligently to support and enhance our economic development initiatives, as well as to forge and maintain strong partnerships with other organizations across the state to strengthen the Georgia economy.”

 

Downing, whose past posts at Georgia Tech included serving as research engineer, program manager, regional manager, and director of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) — EI2’s largest program — has brought national recognition to the unit and several awards, including the 2014 Innovation Award in Economic Development from the Association of Public and Land Grant Institutions, the 2014 Outstanding Research Park Award from the Association of University Research Parks, and the National MEP Innovation Award in 2011 for the GaMEP.

 

Chris Downing - Vice President EI2

Chris Downing (right) accepts the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s 2016 Global Impact Award for Innovation from Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson on June 30, 2016. The presentation followed the announcement that Downing was named vice president of Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

“Chris has elevated EI2’s commitment to technology commercialization, business and industry outreach, and entrepreneurship,” Cross said. “Through his leadership, EI2’s stature and prominence in Georgia as the state’s most comprehensive economic development organization has risen. His passion and commitment to EI2’s mission has helped to make Tech Square the Southeast’s premier neighborhood for innovation and economic development and is instrumental in helping to define other innovation neighborhoods adjacent to the rest of the campus.”

 

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2):

The Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI²) is the Georgia Institute of Technology’s chief business outreach and economic development organization. EI²’s core mission is to provide an exhaustive suite of programs to assist business, industry, entrepreneurs, and economic developers across Georgia. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-base program of its kind, EI² helps enterprises of all kinds and sizes and across all sectors improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology, and innovation. For more information, please visit innovate.gatech.edu.