New Faces of the Enterprise Innovation Institute

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

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

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

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 Merritt

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 Burns

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 Cocchi, Student Engagement Manager, Partnership

Cody Cocchi

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 Sattler

Polly Sattler, Strategic Relations Manager, Partnership

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.”

Enter the State of Innovation

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation continues to accelerate shared economic success across Georgia

 

Two years ago, the state of Georgia and a coalition of private and civic partners launched a revolutionary organization to catalyze innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success throughout the state, with the goal of making Georgia the tech capital of the East Coast and a model of inclusive innovation. That public-private organization, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership), has succeeded beyond the founders’ imaginings.

 

In just two years, the Partnership has delivered technology – and more – to both rural and urban communities. Working with local governments, corporations, universities, startups, and nonprofits, the Partnership has invested in more than 30 projects in 90 Georgia legislative districts that have created new businesses and jobs, increased access to financial and social capital, deployed more than 170 technologies, and engaged students in more than 25,000 hours devoted to civic projects.

 

Debra Lam, executive director of the Partnership

The Partnership’s unique model combines the grantmaking strengths of a foundation with hands-on operations and infrastructure. This allows the Partnership to focus on long-term investments in geographically distributed, nontraditional, underserved, and emerging areas to expand economic access to Georgians of all backgrounds.

 

“The Partnership believes in the broadest definition of inclusive innovation,” said founding Executive Director Debra Lam. “We work to increase access and expand geographic, racial, gender, and socio-economic equity, and opportunity for all to create innovative ways to drive economic and community growth.”

 

The Partnership has invested $1.3 million in projects around the state that create and sustain economic success. These projects have provided a match of $1.7 million and secured an additional $6.2 million to support their growth.

 

In the last year, the Partnership has driven success through its four pillars:

 

Economic Opportunity

This pillar looks to scale proven programs, services, and technologies and nurture communities of practice for knowledge sharing and collaboration. One such project was the Conservation Fund’s Working Farms Fund (WFF). WFF, the first of its kind in the U.S., helps shield farmland in perpetuity from sprawl. Last year, the fund purchased seven farms, securing 674 acres of land for 31 farmers, 85% of whom are from underserved communities or are women. This coming year, the fund will secure six more farms and at least 500 acres for a dozen farmers. In addition, the fund will launch a companion program in Illinois and is in discussions with Texas and North Carolina about programs in those states

 

Student Engagement

This pillar aims to develop the next generation of leaders across the state in public service, innovation, and technology. The flagship program is the Smart Community Corps (SCC), a summer internship that in 2022 placed 33 paid interns, representing 11 Georgia universities and 17+ academic disciplines, working in pairs on 16 projects in communities including Woodstock, Atlanta, Albany, Spalding County, and beyond. SCC projects included The Ray, which is working to transform a portion of I-85 into a global model for sustainable transportation, and the Georgia Entrepreneurship Project, which is mapping entrepreneurship and innovation across the state with the goal of expanding prosperity more equitably.

 

Community Research

The oldest pillar, community research, starts with the needs and priorities of the community and pairs that with multidisciplinary, applied research that is advanced with community implementation and feedback. This approach offers the community access to innovative tools and research. The Georgia Smart Communities Challenge is an award-winning program that empowers communities to meet their goals of a smart and connected future. This program has served 20 communities across the state, including Savannah and Valdosta, where projects have helped ameliorate blighted property and save critical time at intersections, allowing first responders to get to emergencies more quickly.

 

Workforce Development

The newest pillar, workforce development, invests in human capital to foster meaningful careers, create systems of economic mobility, build talent pipelines for Georgia employers, and boost connectivity. The flagship program is the Workforce for Tomorrow Fellowship (WFT), a first-of-its-kind program where participants are immersed in six-month rotations in the public and private sectors in key growth sectors, such as sustainability and infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, and logistics.

 

With increased funding from the state and corporate partners, the Partnership anticipates significant growth of all programs over the next year. The plan is to fund at least $2.8 million in projects, double the number of students who participate in the SCC, and provide more applied, multidisciplinary research around Georgia.

 

“I’m honored to be part of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation and to help define Georgia as a national leader in technology research, development, and implementation,” said Reed Dulany, a Partnership advisory board member and president and CEO of Dulany Industries. “I look forward to seeing the long-term impact that the Partnership will make across Georgia in the future.”

 

About the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation:

Launched in 2020, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is a public-private organization that was created to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success. The Partnership’s focus pillars of community research, workforce development, student engagement, and economic opportunity are a powerful combination that provide technical and financial support to democratize innovation through collaboration. Since 2020, the Partnership’s work has catalyzed 30+ projects with local governments, universities, startups and nonprofits. The projects have created new businesses, increased access to financial and social capital, and deployed more than 170 technologies. More information is available at pingeorgia.org.

Georgia College Students Present Project Outcomes in 4th Smart Community Corps Closing Session

Students from 11 Georgia universities worked together to tackle civic innovation projects across Georgia over the summer period

 

Students from the 4th cohort of the Smart Community Corps along with the Partnership team

The fourth cohort of Smart Community Corps (SCC), one of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovations flagship programs under the Student Engagement pillar, wrapped up in August with presentations at Microsoft’s Atlantic Yards from student interns about their summer projects. The SCC is designed to provide civic-minded graduate and undergraduate college students from around the state hands-on experience working with communities in Georgia on projects to improve the lives of residents. And these students delivered, with projects that range from improving the flow of traffic to getting food from farm to table in underserved communities.

 

“There is no better way to learn about civic tech and public innovation than actively working with community partners on projects that make a difference,” said Partnership Director Debra Lam. “Our ambition was grand and these students showed us that it could be done and done well together.”

 

Launched in 2020, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is a public-private organization that was created to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success. In addition to student engagement, the Partnership’s focus pillars also include community research, workforce development, and economic opportunity. The Partnership’s mission is supported by a number of private and public institutions, including Georgia Power, Synovus, the University of Georgia, Flowers Foods, and Georgia Tech.

 

This year’s program launched in May with 33 interns competitively selected from 140 applicants. They represent 11 Georgia universities and 17 academic disciplines. The students spent the summer working on 16 projects across the state. In addition to the civic innovation work, what makes Smart Community Corps unique is its pair model. SCC interns work primarily in pairs on projects, bringing complementary backgrounds, skills and expertise together to learn from each other as they collaborate on the projects.

 

Student projects have a real impact around the state. For instance, in studying traffic patterns in Valdosta, students found that drivers were speeding most often during the times when cars and students were going to and from the middle school, making for not just frustrating drop offs and pickups, but also dangerous ones. In Spalding County, student work will mean greater access to wireless broadband in underserved parts of the county.

 

“We hear a lot of positive feedback from legislators and from economic developers around the state,” said G.P. “Bud” Peterson, the Partnership’s board chair, and President Emeritus and Regents Professor at Georgia Tech’s Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

 

This summer was the first time since 2019 that the interns worked in person rather than virtually. An $8,000 stipend funded by contributions from Microsoft and Gulfstream helped cover interns’ expenses for the 12-week program.

 

Olasumbo Ogunsola, a student at Georgia State University, worked on a project with the Savannah Logistics Innovation Center

Olasumbo Ogunsola, a student at Georgia State University, worked on a project with the Savannah Logistics Innovation Center (SLIC) to help connect tech businesses with government, academic, and private partners.

 

“It has been an amazing opportunity,” Ogunsola said. “I’ve really learned a lot from my executive director with SLIC, have learned a lot about logistics management and about new companies that are starting up in Georgia and are trying to expand. It has really changed my life. My project partner, Mark Schwabacher, a Georgia Tech student, was offered a position by the executive director of SLIC. I was also able to get something with a healthcare company. This has really opened a lot of opportunities.”

 

While most of the students worked in one community, Nikhil Upadhaya, a student who’s been at

Nikhil Upadhaya, a student who’s been at Georgia State and will transfer to University of Georgia this fall, was part of a statewide project to map innovation and entrepreneurship

Georgia State and will transfer to University of Georgia this fall, was part of a statewide project to map innovation and entrepreneurship. “I think what drew me to the project was that I had never heard of anybody researching entrepreneurship within Georgia. And personally, I learned a lot about data analytics, and how to analyze the data and look through it all to push research further into whatever somebody might need the data for.”

 

Paige Clayton, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning, oversaw the project. She was so impressed with Upadhaya that she hired him for the fall to continue his work. “The work he did was definitely beneficial to my work and that will hopefully benefit Georgia,” she said.

 

And that’s the goal of the program — for students to put the knowledge and skills they’ve learned in the classroom to work in Georgia to help create more sustainable, innovative, and technologically advanced communities.

 

“A lot of Georgia students tend to leave the state after graduation,” said Clarence Anthony Jr., the Partnership’s workforce development manager. “The SCC engages some of our next wave of leaders within higher education to work with senior leaders throughout the state, building a nice bridge and partnership, but also showing students they have opportunities to stay here, to do meaningful work if they want to.”

Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Announces 2022 Smart Communities

Four Georgia communities receive support for projects that leverage applied research, technology and data to advance innovation in smart resilience

 

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, a public-private organization designed to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity and shared economic success, today announced the winners of the 2022 Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, at Central Georgia Technical College in Warner Robins.

 

Representatives from the 2022 Georgia Smart Communities Challenge cohort (Photo: Matt Hummel)

The award-winning Georgia Smart Communities Challenge supports teams of applied researchers, municipalities and nonprofit groups to work together over the course of the year on locally driven priorities ranging from installing sea level sensors for hurricane resilience to building digital twins for public safety and transportation.

 

The 2022 theme, Smart Resilience, sought projects that address topics including disaster response, energy efficiency and public safety.

 

“This year, we add four communities from across Georgia, spanning three economic development districts and including multi-disciplinary researchers from Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Middle Georgia State University, Clayton State University and Augusta University,” said Stephanie Broxton, the Partnership’s community research manager.

 

“The selected communities submitted strong multi-disciplinary, multi-university research project proposals that aim to advance innovation by leveraging technology and data. Communities from throughout Georgia were selected to ensure impact across the state.”

 

Each of the projects will receive financial and technical assistance to support and continue the work of implementing applied research from university partners, as well as assistance from the Partnership for monthly meetings, community engagement and promotion of project outcomes.

 

Georgia Tech is a proud member of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation,” Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech, said. “We’re truly committed to creating opportunities for all Georgians to drive innovation and to make Georgia the Tech Capital of the East Coast.

 

Cabrera congratulated the Georgia Smart winners and added, “This work is sure to create lasting transformative change, not just for the winning communities, but also for their neighbors and everyone who benefits from this research in the future.”

 

The 2022 cohort communities and projects are:

 

City of Atlanta: The project will use innovative diagnostic techniques to perform energy audits in Atlanta’s Thomasville Heights community, with the goal of achieving significant cost savings compared to traditional building energy auditing practices. The audits are done with minimally invasive drones equipped with remote sensing instruments to analyze building exteriors. The method holds promise for overcoming homeowner hesitancy about weatherization programs and can be replicated in distressed neighborhoods throughout the city. The project is especially timely in the Thomasville Heights community, where ongoing challenges such as acute unemployment and poverty will soon be compounded by the closure of long-neglected subsidized housing. Researchers from Georgia Tech and Morehouse School of Medicine, and representatives from Focused Community Strategies will work with the city of Atlanta on this project.

 

“We are currently supporting neighborhood stabilization in Thomasville Heights,” said Dr. Latrice Rollins, assistant professor for community health and preventive medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. This project will allow “us to use utility rebates and bulk purchasing as solutions for poverty amelioration and will reduce the cost of energy.”

 

Atlanta Project Team:

 

Athens-Clarke County: The Climate Resilience Project through Technology and Transportation Innovation will evaluate and improve community preparedness in response to the growing severity of environmental disaster and the region’s increasing population. The project will include the development and deployment of a survey to gauge existing disaster preparedness and resident interest in improving preparedness in their communities. Leaders will engage with the community to create an all-hazards mitigation plan, neighborhood disaster playbook template and strengthened neighborhood-level resource and relationship network. The goal is to minimize risk and work toward providing equitable outcomes for all members of the community in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Researchers from the University of Georgia, Augusta University and Kennesaw State University will work with Athens-Clarke County on this project.

 

“Athens-Clarke County is dedicated to building a culture of readiness and resiliency for all of our residents,” said Mayor Kelly Girtz. “Through this partnership, I believe we will make Athens-Clarke County a safer, strong and adaptable place to live.”

 

Athens-Clarke County project team:

 

The Henry County Smart Resilience Decision Support Tool (DST) will be an interactive web-based tool to assist county planners, policymakers and county officials as they assess and explore the impact and potential of new greenspace, warehousing and freight-related infrastructure projects. The tool will help county officials answer the question: How can Henry County reconcile community economic development objectives with quality of life and energy resilience concerns? Researchers from Georgia Tech and Clayton State University will work with Henry County on this project.

 

“We are so excited and honored that Henry County has been chosen to receive the Georgia Smart Award,” said Carlotta Harrell, chair of the Henry County Board of Commissioners. “We continue to look for ways to improve and enhance transportation for Henry County residents and this continued partnership with Georgia Smart allows us to do just that.”

 

Henry County project team:

 

City of Warner Robins: The project will develop and test a Citizen Safety Digital Twin for Community Resilience through the integration of a dynamic license plate reader solution with police department investigation practices. The project team will build on previous work to refine an interface that enables the police department to see where crimes are predicted to occur and suggest placement of license plate readers to detect them. The team will engage with the community and key stakeholders to collect and analyze feedback about the system. This project will help Warner Robins to maximize both deterrence and detection, with the aim of lowering crime rates across the city. Researchers from Georgia Tech and Middle Georgia State University will work with the city of Warner Robins on this project.

 

“Police departments are under-resourced and understaffed around the nation,” Warner Robins Mayor LaRhonda Patrick said. “The use of technology has been a force multiplier to reduce crime. This grant will give Chief [John] Wagner and the entire police department team the tools they need to provide public safety for our city. This is proactive crime prevention.”

 

Warner Robins project team:

 

The Georgia Smart Communities Challenge has a strong track record of success. Alumni have implemented their projects and garnered additional funding and technical assistance to continue projects beyond the two-year program period, allowing them to continue serving their residents and meeting community goals.

 

“As an initial Georgia Smart partner and long-time supporter of the Partnership, Georgia Power is proud to support innovation across the state through this announcement of a new cohort of Georgia Smart communities,” Chris Womack, chair, president and CEO of Georgia Power, said at the event. “This cohort of Georgia Smart community projects is unique because it is inclusive, it supports multi-disciplinary and multi-university projects, and it fosters collaboration, with all communities working toward smart resilience initiatives.”

 

About the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (GA Smart) program:

When municipalities experience 21st century challenges that require strategic planning, Georgia Smart is an award-winning program that assists leaders in identifying solutions that are researched, tested and evaluated by subject-matter experts. Often referred to as simply “Georgia Smart” this community research assistance program empowers communities on their journey to innovation by helping them to envision a smart and connected future. This program has served 20 communities across the state of Georgia, helping to activate over 140 technologies and facilitate over 30 community engagement meetings. Alumni of the program have gone on to experience wide-ranging success, including recognition on a national and international scale.

 

About the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation:

Launched in 2020, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is a public-private organization that was created to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success. The Partnership’s focus pillars of community research, workforce development, student engagement, and economic opportunity are a powerful combination that provide technical and financial support to democratize innovation through collaboration. Since 2020, the Partnership’s work has catalyzed 30+ projects with local governments, universities, startups and nonprofits. The projects have created new businesses, increased access to financial and social capital, and deployed more than 170 technologies. More information is available at pingeorgia.org.

Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Hits One-Year Milestone

Public-private initiative drives economic opportunity across Georgia

 

A year ago, a coalition composed of the State of Georgia, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the civic and corporate sector, launched an ambitious plan to advance innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success across the state, positioning it as the tech capital of the East Coast.

 

The City of Savannah in collaboration with the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, is exploring applications of emerging data analytics and machine learning techniques to leverage existing city data to guide decisions on the best strategy to deal with vacant and blighted properties in the community.

September was a one-year milestone for the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, a public-private organization charged with implementing that plan through the three pillars of community research, student engagement, and economic opportunity.

 

“Our charge was to support existing hubs of innovation, nurture promising leaders and entrepreneurs, especially from communities not often included in this discussion, and invest in the most promising and scalable technology-driven, community-based solutions,” said Debra Lam, the Partnership’s executive director. “What’s really exciting is seeing how our efforts in this first year are yielding tangible results that position Georgia to achieve inclusion one innovation at a time.”

 

The Partnership is supported with funding from the State of Georgia, a blue chip roster of some of the country’s largest corporations, strategic partners, and Georgia Tech, which also is providing administrative oversight. The Partnership already has 15 project sites across nine economic development regions and deployed more than 140 technologies. Public engagement and knowledge transfer remain core components of the Partnership’s offerings, with nearly 700 attendees in events and active digital communications, including monthly newsletters.

 

The areas of focus and the Partnership’s impact over the past year are reflected in three flagship programs.

 

Innovate for All: To scale economic opportunity, Innovate for All funds and supports proven programs, services, and technologies created by Georgia’s innovators. In the past year, it funded the Georgia Mesh Network and the Working Farm Fund.

 

  • The Georgia Mesh Network: Augusta’s theClubhou.se is piloting the statewide network with Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah to offer skills training and certification to historically disadvantaged and underserved entrepreneurs. It is backed with the commitment of 21 capital partners to support entrepreneurs who graduate from the program.

 

  • The Working Farms Fund: Through the Conservation Fund, this effort is committed to the preservation of local farms that are increasingly falling victim to the pressures of rising costs, low margins, and corporate consolidation, which stresses the food supply chain. The fund, which is at the forefront of advocating for a healthier and more resilient food supply chain, secured $1 million in additional funding, acquired two farms: a certified organic produce farm in Mansfield, and a 21.2-acre farm composed of 15 immigrant and refugee smallholder farms in Conyers.

 

Smart Community Corps: This summer program, supported by Microsoft, pairs students — from any Georgia college or university, any year and major — together to work on Partnership projects. Though experiential learning and public service, students can effectively advance technology and practice innovation by living and working with the communities. The 2021 cohort of students from Georgia Tech, Morehouse College, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Valdosta State, logged 5,280 hours on their projects, which ranged from addressing blight in Savannah to traffic monitoring in Valdosta, to smart pedestrian planning in Clayton County.

 

Georgia Smart Community Challenge (GA Smart): Now in its fourth year, with 16 community projects, the program allows localities across the state to apply for research assistance that empowers them to envision, explore, and plan for a smart future. The 2021 cohort includes the cities of Woodbury and Concord, and Pike and Spalding counties. This cohort will work with Georgia Tech researchers to expand and enhance connectivity and explore additional applications that will improve their services, efficiencies, and cost savings.

 

The Partnership is expected to support $2.88 million of programming this coming year across the state. It maintains its lean operations model through key partners at Jabian Consulting, Brand Culture, Jackson Spalding, and Kilpatrick Townsend. “While the Partnership has advanced much in its first year, we look forward to ongoing progress and growth utilizing innovation and technology to service Georgia today and tomorrow,” Lam said.

Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Announces 2021 Cohort of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

Complementing federal and state efforts, incoming cohort class will focus on community connectivity.

 

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (PIN) announced the four communities selected for its 2021 Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (GA Smart), which allows localities across the state to apply for research assistance that empowers them to envision, explore, and plan for a “smart” future.

 

The 2021 cohort includes the cities of Woodbury and Concord, and Pike and Spalding counties. As GA Smart communities, the cohort will work with researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology to expand and enhance connectivity and explore additional applications that will improve their services, efficiencies, and cost savings. The community connectivity focus for this cohort aims to link them with the resources they need to pilot relevant smart solutions within the two-year GA Smart program.

 

  • The City of Woodbury: Woodbury has employed an innovative Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) network as a publicly owned utility, serving 50 community members. Georgia Tech researchers will assist in the enhancement and expansion of the WISP network by exploring measurement-driven dashboards for evaluating the end-user experience. They will also explore connectivity needs for the proposed Meriwether County AgTech Center for Innovation (MACI).
  • The City of Concord: With a network similar to Woodbury’s, city representatives and Georgia Tech researchers will work together to advance connectivity in the city through further testing, evaluation, and community engagement. They will look to address challenges to wireless networks such as geographic terrain, natural foliage, and adoption rates. Tech researchers will also help Concord explore connectivity applications such as having water sensors available in public facilities for operational efficiency and potential cost savings.
  • Pike County: As infrastructure investments are often driven by an intersection of cost and functionality, Tech will help Pike administrators analyze technologies to improve connectivity countywide, including exploring different broadband options to identify solutions that are both cost effective and reliable for consumers.
  • Spalding County: Believing that access to the internet is a driver of economic development, officials want to identify methods to increase broadband access in the area.  Many internet service providers are unable or unwilling to provide access to households or businesses that are separated from other connections by acres or miles. Tech researchers will provide Spalding leaders with perspective on technology hardware and software options that will meet the county’s needs, as well as evaluate the current status of connectivity and how to improve it.

“Communities experiencing gaps in connectivity across the state of Georgia have sought creative solutions to bridge them, and still more communities are seeking answers about how to get connected,” said Debra Lam, executive director of PIN. “This cohort has taken steps toward being innovative in a collaborative way. By providing research services to these neighboring communities with established relationships and an interest in coordinating connectivity efforts across city and county borders, GA Smart can make a regional impact and follow the natural expansion of these services across the area. This placemaking opportunity allows communities to plan together, avoid redundancies, and accomplish more collectively.”

 

The cohort will be working with researchers from Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, including professor Ellen Zegura, the Stephen Fleming Chair in Telecommunications, and associate professor Ada Gavrilovska.

 

“The pandemic has made it clear that dependable access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech. “At Georgia Tech, we believe in the power of technology to improve lives and communities, especially in our state, and we look forward to working with the winners of this year’s Georgia Smart Communities Challenge to achieve just that.”

 

Meet the Communities 
As the first city to be declared “Broadband Ready” by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) in 2020, the City of Woodbury has pioneered a way forward for communities unserved by traditional broadband.

 

“Meeting the needs of our ever-changing world requires diversity in thought and a willingness to move boldly into the future,” said City of Woodbury Mayor Steve Ledbetter. “Our goal is to push beyond the possible and be a part of leading our community and our state into the future.”

 

“The pandemic underscores just how critical connectivity can be for a community’s economic well-being,” said City of Concord Mayor John Strickland. “Covid-19 made it clear that the internet is necessary for education, healthcare, and business, as well as access to important real-time information. We are fortunate to be geographically close to Woodbury, which introduced us to their service provider. Working together, small cities and counties can provide solutions that will serve more people at a lower cost.

 

Brandon Rogers, Pike County manager, echoed those sentiments. “We want to serve the citizens of the community by ensuring options for broadband access in all areas of the county, so that no communities are left behind in the digital divide. We’re excited to be working with Georgia Tech as we seek out reliable sources for connectivity that can reach unserved areas of the county at an affordable price range for all of our residents and all of our municipalities.”

 

Regional cooperation is a key differentiator, said Jessica Simmons, deputy chief information officer at the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA).

 

“Pooling strategies and resource capabilities for connectivity to benefit the broader region complements the state’s initiative to promote broadband deployment in unserved parts of Georgia,” she said. “This regional effort builds exactly the kind of momentum we want to see in rural areas that lack high-speed internet access.”

 

Since 2018, GA Smart has served 12 communities across the state of Georgia in a variety of projects, ranging from installing sea-level and traffic sensors to planning for connected vehicle technology. Alumni from the GA Smart program have successfully implemented their projects and garnered additional funding and technical assistance to continue their projects beyond the program period, continuing to service their residents and meet their community’s goals.

 

The GA Smart program has facilitated community engagement across the state by hosting more than 40 community meetings, provided in excess of 140 technologies deployed in its funded projects, and provided research support that led to successful grant proposals, academic presentations, and publications.

 

About the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation
The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (PIN) is a public-private partnership that launched in 2020 to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the Technology Capital of the East Coast. Dedicated to advancing innovation, opportunity, and shared economic success across the state, the organization’s focus on community research, student engagement, and pilot programs — through its Innovate for ALL, Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, and Smart Community Corps — is a powerful combination that establishes Georgia as a living lab for inclusive innovation. Under the guidance of board Chairman G.P. Bud Peterson and Executive Director Debra Lam, the Partnership seeks to help foster access, growth, entrepreneurship, and innovation throughout the state. Visit pingeorgia.org.

 

About Georgia Tech
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 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.