Georgia Institute of Technology Collaborates with Morehouse College and PRENEURology Global to Boost Minority Innovation in Metro Areas

Initiative is part of a federal push to strengthen entrepreneurship, growth, and sustainability for minority business owners across the Southeast.


The Georgia Institute of Technology has partnered with Morehouse College and PRENEURology Global to launch the Southeast Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Growth Hub to serve entrepreneurs and innovators in eight southeastern states.


The two-year pilot is funded by a $1.4 million cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Commerce MBDA to establish a collaborative support network for minority entrepreneurs in the Hub, which, along with Georgia, includes Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.


The Southeast MBDA Business Growth Hub will be a valuable resource for programs serving minority business enterprises (MBEs). As a pilot effort, it could serve as a model yielding sustainable economic wealth for minority entrepreneurs in other regions of the country. (For more information about the Hub, please visit:


Led by the Atlanta MBDA Centers at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), the Southeast MBDA Business Growth Hub will operate virtually and in-person as a regional, blended network of entrepreneur spaces, education pathways, and engagement programs. The Hub will also serve as an access point to corporations, financing, and other government programs. This cohesive, blended network will foster MBE participation in ecosystems. It is designed to overcome the limited participation of minorities in local innovation ecosystems while giving them access to a broader regional network of connections, experiences, and expertise in the eight-state region.


The Hub will operate as a collective partnership of the Atlanta MBDA Centers, Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), the Morehouse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (MIEC), and PRENEURology Global.


Donna Ennis Headshot
Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F., is EI2’s director of diversity engagement and program development.

“The goal of the Hub is to connect the ecosystems throughout the Southeast in a way that will provide greater access for all MBEs and entrepreneurs regardless of the stage of their business,” said Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F, EI2 director of diversity engagement and program development and the Atlanta MBDA Centers. “We realized while there are highly effective ecosystems throughout the Southeast, minority entrepreneurs often struggle with making viable, long-term connections to enable the acceleration of their products and services to the market.”


ATDC, Georgia Tech’s statewide technology incubator, will host the MBDA@ATDC to attract technology startups and innovators with diverse backgrounds to the program. “The Hub is designed to enhance the reach of services available to entrepreneurs of color by connecting nodes or services like ours together in a more dynamic way through broader regional connections,” said John Avery, ATDC director. “This gives us an opportunity to enhance ATDC’s presence in communities of color while bringing our access to resources and expertise.”


The Morehouse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (MIEC) at Morehouse College will help the Hub identify minority-serving institutions (MSIs) — Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other institutions of higher education with predominantly Latino or other minority populations — that have programs and resources aimed at fostering entrepreneurship and building wealth for people of color. “We will form a Southeast cluster of MSI innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems to connect and stimulate the growth of each MSI, said Tiffany Bussey, DBA, executive director of the MIEC. “This partnership will further help us accelerate entrepreneurship among students and faculty at MSIs.”


PRENEURology Global will establish the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Pathways for new relationships within and among MBEs, collective workspaces (traditional and non-traditional hubs), state, regional, and local governments, corporate partners, financing resources, and accelerators/incubators. This approach will create an integrated network of resources to help MBEs grow and scale their businesses. “We’re seeing a lot of business activity in these ecosystems but there is lack of connectivity,” said Le’Kiesha French, CEO of PRENEURology Global, “Our goal is to create more efficiency by eliminating barriers of access to opportunities and resources within the Southeast region for Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) business entrepreneurs so they can experience equitable pathways to starting and growing their businesses.”


About the Atlanta MBDA Centers
As part of a national network of over 40 centers and special projects, the Atlanta MBDA Business and Advanced Manufacturing Centers help MBEs access capital, increase profitability, and scale their businesses. Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency, the Atlanta MBDA Centers are part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development. To learn more, visit


About the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC)
The Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech is a startup incubator that helps technology entrepreneurs in Georgia launch and grow successful companies. ATDC is one of the oldest and most successful research university-affiliated incubators in the United States and was named by Forbes as one of the “Top 12 Business Incubators Changing the World.” Founded in 1980, ATDC has fostered innovation and economic development by graduating more than 150 companies, which together have raised over $2 billion in outside financing. To learn more about ATDC, visit


About Morehouse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (MIEC)
MIEC is a global model for higher education and industry collaborations to foster innovation and entrepreneurial leadership by promoting local and regional economic growth and development with people of color on and off-campus. The Center was established as a unit of Morehouse College in 2004 and has secured grants and contracts worth more than $20 million, impacted over 2,100 students, partnered with more than 17 large mentoring corporations, and assisted over 120 technology growth companies nationwide. The MIEC also serves as the lead institution in the JP Morgan Chase Small Business Forward Ascend Atlanta program, where it has accelerated 80+ minority tech startups over the past three years and helped them raise more than $5.5 million in funding. for more details.


About PRENEURology Global
As a Social Enterprise serving entrepreneurs around the world, PRENEURology Global has worked with organizations, educational institutions, corporations, and government agencies across the globe for more than 15 years, to support emerging innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems through a human-centered approach. With its team of bilingual professionals (English and Spanish), PRENEURology revolutionizes mindsets within communities at risk by empowering people with tools for innovation and economic growth. For more information, visit

SETAAC Awarded $1.2 Million Federal Commerce Grant

SETAAC serves eight southeastern states and helps manufacturers affected by foreign import trade better compete.
SETAAC serves eight southeastern states and helps manufacturers affected by foreign import trade better compete.

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced $13 million in U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to support 11 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers (TAACs), including $1.2 million to the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

SETAAC and the other 10 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers help manufacturers affected by imports. The comprehensive assistance includes the development and implementation of projects to regain global competitiveness, expand markets, strengthen operations, and increase profitability. It also saves and/or creates new U.S. jobs.

“The Trump administration is committed to providing a level playing field for American manufacturers,” Ross said in a statement. “This program provides critical technical assistance to firms to help them develop and implement projects to regain global competitiveness, expand market share, and create jobs.”

The TAACs, which each service multiple states, are located in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. The announced grants are for the fifth year of a funding cycle running from 2016 to 2021.

In addition to Georgia, SETAAC’s service area includes the Carolinas, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. Created in 1974, SETAAC is an offering of Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, the Enterprise Innovation Institute.

For the 10 years between 2009 and 2019, SETAAC received more than $12.2 million in federal funding and served 250 clients across its service region.

Those companies reported increased sales $49.8 million and saving or creating nearly 2,000 jobs in that period.

Delegates from Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Georgia Tech Meet with Congressional Leaders on Capitol Hill

Tim Israel, director of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, in Washington, D.C. for the 2020 “Hill Day” at the U.S. Capitol.

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) convened with members of the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC) during its annual “Hill Day” in Washington, D.C.


The two-day event, held on March 3 and 4, was an opportunity for ASMC members and their manufacturing clients to meet with their respective Congressional delegation and educate them about the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program during the annual appropriations process.


The MEP National Network works with small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers through designated MEP Centers, including the GaMEP at Georgia Tech. They are charged with assisting manufacturing clients to help them, to help create and retain jobs, increase profits, and promote innovation and growth for the future.


The intent behind Hill Day is to call attention to the importance of small and medium-sized manufacturers’ effect on rebuilding the economy.  By showcasing the achievements of this sector to elected officials, ASMC members are able to demonstrate a return on investment of the federal funding generated through the MEP program.


“As a part of the MEP National Network, the GaMEP works with manufacturers throughout the state offering solution-based approaches to increase top-line growth and reduce bottom-line cost,” said GaMEP Director Tim Israel. “We have a unique responsibility to boost Georgia’s economy by enhancing our clients’ competitiveness. I was excited to share these results with our congressional leaders so they can see our key successes this past year.”


In Georgia, the GaMEP worked with more than 700 manufacturers across the state to increase manufacturing sales by $317 million, reduce clients’ operating costs by $121 million, invest more than $159 million back into their plants, and create or retain 2,074 jobs.


As a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the MEP offers its clients resources centered on five critical areas: technology acceleration, supplier development, sustainability, workforce, and continuous improvement. In 2019, MEP generated a 14.4:1 return on investment, according to an Upjohn Institute for Employment Research study.


Nationally, in 2019, MEP clients reported $15.7 billion new and retained sales and the creation or retention of 114,650 jobs. Considering that the average U.S. manufacturing worker earns more than $87,185 in wages and benefits per year, MEP clients are economic drivers in their communities. MEP clients are also increasing their capacity for the production of goods. MEP clients reported $4.5 billion in new investments directly attributed to their work with MEP.


“The MEP National Network continues to significantly improve the productivity and competitiveness of America’s small and mid-sized manufacturers,” said Dave Boulay, ASMC board chairman and president of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center.  “Hill Day provides us an opportunity to showcase those impacts to our congressional representatives and allow our clients to share their stories directly.”


About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)
The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is an economic development program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The GaMEP is a member of the National MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. With offices in nine regions across the state, the GaMEP has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960. It offers a solution-based approach to manufacturers through coaching and education designed to increase top line growth and reduce bottom line cost. For more information, visit:

About the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC)
The American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC) is a trade association of manufacturing extension centers that work to improve the innovation and productivity of America’s manufacturing community. ASMC advocates for legislative and programmatic resources that allow our small manufacturing clients to better compete in the global marketplace. The Coalition and its members do this by increasing awareness of the importance of American small manufacturers, the challenges which they face, and the federal legislation and programs that affect them. Learn more by visiting

Georgia Tech’s Startup Ecosystems wins $250,000 federal grant

By Péralte C. Paul

Grupo Guayacán, headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a non-profit organization that works with entrepreneurs and private equity investment entities to help the island’s entrepreneurial ecosystem develop and grow. The organiziation has partenered with Georgia Tech's Startup Ecosystems and VentureLab I-Corps Puerto Rico programs to create classes, workshops, and other intiatives toward that effort.
Grupo Guayacán, headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a non-profit organization that works with entrepreneurs and private equity investment entities to help the island’s entrepreneurial ecosystem develop and grow. The organization has partnered with Georgia Tech’s Startup Ecosystems and VentureLab I-Corps Puerto Rico programs to create classes, workshops, and other intiatives toward that effort.


Startup Ecosystems, a program of the Georgia Institute of Technology that helps governments, communities, and other groups with their economic growth initiatives, has won a $250,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.


Separately, the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI), a Georgia Tech affiliate, has been awarded a $249,981 RIS grant for its Medical Technology (MedTech) Seed Fund & Accelerator Program.


The 2015 RIS program is managed by EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) and is designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the U.S. through two different competitions: the i6 Challenge and the Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grants. The 25 total awardees in both competitions, announced by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Feb. 8, will receive $10 million in grants.


“This 2015 Regional Innovation Strategy cohort of grantees is truly an exciting group — the diversity in programs and regional representation proves that innovation and entrepreneurship are igniting all corners of the country,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams. “From Puerto Rico to Pittsburgh, and Seattle to Blacksburg, these programs will reach all kinds of communities and help entrepreneurs gain the edge they need to succeed.”


Startup Ecosystems, which is part of Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, is working with EnterPRize Events and Grupo Guayacan in Puerto Rico to help foster the Caribbean island’s startup ecosystem.


“These types of investments are critical to address the economic barriers that exist for many bright and budding entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico,” said Rafael L. Bras, Georgia Tech’s provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “From proof to seed and startup, the life cycle of such ventures can experience a multitude of vulnerabilities if funding isn’t available early on in the venture. Capital-based and technical support systems provided through the Seed Fund Support award provide vital bridge-gap resources, allowing these underrepresented innovators to bring exciting new ventures to the market.”


The EDA grant will give Puerto Rico-based startups access to small, early-stage investments for moving customer-validated ideas to the marketplace, said David Bridges, Startup Ecosystems’ director.


“Georgia Tech is fortunate to be a partner with EnterPRize Events and Grupo Guayacan in the establishment of this first-ever seed fund for Puerto Rico,” Bridges said. “The Innovation Driven Enterprises or IDE seed fund will be used to support startups with high potential in their quest to reach both local and global markets.”


Georgia Tech has worked on efforts such as these with members of Puerto Rico’s startup system for more than three years, Bridges noted. “We believe this grant is yet another important step toward growing a thriving innovation and entrepreneurship culture in Puerto Rico.”


For GCMI, the grant will help the program increase the availability of funding to early-stage companies and maximize the opportunities for follow-on private investments, said Executive Director Tiffany Wilson.


“GCMI works with university researchers, clinicians, and early-stage companies to help accelerate the development and commercialization of new medical device technologies,” Wilson said. “One critical hurdle that we see many startup device companies face is access to capital. This grant will enable GCMI to increase the availability of funding for early-stage companies and investing in companies that are solving real unmet clinical needs and customer problems.”


The program will have a particular emphasis on funding diverse startup teams and seeing a greater number of female engineers and clinicians involved in the entrepreneurial process, Wilson said. “We know that diverse teams show greater returns to investors.”

Commerce Department’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship director visits GCMI

 Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, learns about the 3D printing capabilities during a recent tour of the Global Center for Medical Innovation, a Georgia Tech affiliate. She holds a skull made via 3D printing at the facility..
Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, learns about the 3D printing capabilities at the Global Center for Medical Innovation during a recent tour of the Georgia Tech affiliate. She holds a skull made at the facility via 3D printing.

By Péralte C. Paul

The Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) recently hosted U.S. Department of Commerce officials, who visited the facility for a better understanding of its best practices in iatric commercialization.

GCMI, which launched in 2012, is the Southeast’s first comprehensive medical device innovation center. An affiliate of Georgia Tech, GCMI’s core mission is to accelerate the development and commercialization of next-generation medical devices and technology.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration arm awarded a $1 million i6 Challenge grant to GCMI in 2010 toward its launch.

“I want to come see what it is the federal government is investing in and how it’s impacting people,” said Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of the Commerce Department’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Being one of our original i6 winners, GCMI also offers some insight as we continue to evolve the program.”

Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson (left) shares his insights on medical device innovation with Julie Lenzer Kirk (center), the director of U.S. Commerce Department's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and GCMI Executive Director Tiffany Wilson Karp (right). GCMI is a Georgia Tech affiliate.
Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson (left) shares his insights on medical device innovation with Julie Lenzer Kirk (center), the director of U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and GCMI Executive Director Tiffany Wilson Karp (right). GCMI is a Georgia Tech affiliate.

While touring the facility with Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson and GCMI Executive Director Tiffany Wilson Karp, Kirk saw its design, engineering, and prototyping capabilities as well as its cleanroom space. She also learned about GCMI’s relationships with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and West Tennessee Healthcare, as well as a number of medical device-related organizations.

“We have been working to bring together the rich medical device ecosystem in the Southeast around our prototyping expertise and infrastructure to help medtech startups accelerate commercialization,” Karp said. “Our mission is to help these early-stage companies bring those solutions to market and make a difference in the quality of patients’ lives.”

GCMI’s focus on that core mission and doing so from an entrepreneurial viewpoint is impressive, Kirk said, adding that she will be looking at its best practices and lessons learned in formulating criteria for future i6 Challenges.

“It’s just been really great to see the impact that they’re having at the university, in the technology community, and ultimately right to the patient — and that’s why we do what we do,” Kirk said following the Jan. 15 tour. “It is a place for entrepreneurs and innovation, and that’s part of the message: that it takes an entrepreneurial mindset to get this kind of thing done.”