Economic Development Lab helps biomedical researcher from Puerto Rico pursue entrepreneurial vision

Visit follows Georgia Tech offer helps Hurricane Maria-affected entrepreneurs and researchers from Puerto Rico tap into Technology Square’s innovation ecosystem.

Mónica Novoa (left), project manager at Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Lab, stands with Jamily Ali Pons, a biomedical researcher at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. Ali Pons, who spent a week on Tech’s campus to further her research, recounted her experience in a recent radio interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

As a third-year biomedical student at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, Jamily Ali Pons has been studying how parasites affect the monarch butterfly’s life cycle.

 

But Hurricane Maria, the costliest storm to ever hit the U.S. island territory, wrecked her research and lab facilities when it hit Puerto Rico, Sept. 20, 2017.

 

Now — after recently spending a week at the Georgia Institute of Technology — the 26-year-old San Juan native, said she’s broadening her sights beyond research and thinking about commercializing her findings.

 

“Georgia Tech helped me to meet a lot of experts in my field and get my research experiments to the next level with new methods and expand my opportunities in in the entrepreneurial field as a researcher,” Ali Pons said. “Being here helped me to see my research as an entrepreneur and to see the possibilities of taking it from the research stage to a product by immersing myself as an entrepreneur.”

 

Ali Pons’ visit to Georgia Tech followed the Institute’s offer to host entrepreneurs and innovators from Puerto Rico still affected by the deadly storm to continue their work here temporarily in Technology Square.

 

She shared her experiences in recent interview on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “On Second Thought” radio program. (Listen to the broadcast at this link: https://bit.ly/2FlrjxB.)

 

The Economic Development Lab (EDL), program of Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, has been a partner to various universities and economic development organizations on the island since 2012.

 

EDL is able to offer use of the space temporarily to Ali Pons and others via the Georgia Advanced Technology Ventures Inc., a non-profit organization and Tech affiliate.

 

The initiative followed a November 2017 visit to Georgia Tech by a delegation of the Echar Pa’Lante (Move Forward), a multi-sector alliance based in Puerto Rico and comprised of business and government leaders and educators.

 

Mónica Novoa, a project manager at EDL, said the offering is part of its ongoing work in Puerto Rico since 2012, when a team from the Institute went to the island to conduct a full assessment of its innovation ecosystem in a government-funded study.

 

“Our initial work with that study and what we’re doing now has been centered around the role of universities in developing entrepreneurial programs and to teach how to be innovative and creative from that standpoint,” Novoa said.

 

That initial assessment led to EDL partnerships with two non-profits Grupo Guayacan and Echar Pa’lante to implement a host of programs funded by various organizations.

 

Some of the collaborative accomplishments in Puerto Rico in the last three years alone include:

 

  • Startup bootcamps for 80 entrepreneurial teams.
  • Successful teams have raised $5 million in capital.
  • The launch of the island’s first-ever seed fund, which raised a $1 million.
  • Building one of the first mentor networks.
  • Supporting the University of Puerto Rico licensing its first securing the first license technology in its history.
  • Trained over 400 faculty and ecosystem members in lean startups techniques.
  • Supporting a $40 million research grant in cell manufacturing technologies for a consortium of partners that includes Georgia Tech, Emory University, and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.

Georgia Institute of Technology launches the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) and its partners announce the launch of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (Georgia Smart). The effort is the first statewide program to support local governments across Georgia with seed funding, technical assistance, and more as they plan and activate smart development.

 

Georgia Smart seeks proposals in the areas of smart mobility and smart resilience. Each of the four winning teams will receive direct grant funding of up to $50,000, as well as additional funds for research and technical assistance with a required local match.

 

The grants are made possible through funding from the Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Power Co. Also supporting this effort are the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Centers for Innovation, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the Technology Association of Georgia.

 

Two of the winning teams will be from rural communities and the other two from more urban Georgia cities.

 

“We’ve spent the past year in workshops and dialogue with local governments across Georgia to better understand their challenges and priorities. From these communications, we developed a program that is sensitive to the local context while fast-tracking smart communities,” said Debra Lam, managing director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation at Georgia Tech. “We aim to create more models for smart development that can be shared and applied across the state and beyond.”

 

The first program of its kind in the United States, Georgia Smart brings together an unprecedented coalition of university, industry, and public sector partners to support local governments’ adoption of cutting-edge technologies in their communities. The program is also unique in that it extends beyond large cities to smaller communities whose voices have not been as prominent in smart community development and who may not have access to technology resources.

 

The Georgia Smart initiative is open to all communities in Georgia. Local Georgia governments of any size — cities, counties, or consolidated city-county governments — will lead selected teams. Georgia Smart will provide seed funding and access to technical assistance, expert advice, and a network of peers. A Georgia Tech researcher will assist and advise each team and conduct research in support of the community’s needs and goals.

 

CEDR will provide strategic planning and facilitation assistance to the recipients of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge grants, and help those communities activate their smart community plans. For more information on the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, please contact Leigh Hopkins, senior project manager with Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at 404.894.0933 or email ude.hcetag.etavonninull@snikpoh.hgiel.

 

Comprised of a dozen programs, including CEDR, EI2 is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development.

 

“This is a chance for communities — both urban and rural — to look at ways of moving their economies forward by focusing on ideas centered on innovation, transportation, and broadband infrastructure among other economic development opportunities,” Hopkins said. “We’re looking forward to working with the winning teams and help them develop their ideas.”

 

Georgia Tech and its partners will work with the winning teams throughout the year on implementing their proposals, creating four testbeds of smart community development. For more information on applying for the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, visit: http://smartcities.gatech.edu/georgia-smart.

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.