Atlanta Business Chronicle | July 6, 2012
Atlanta-area universities are a tremendous asset for the city and the state. Many are surprised to learn that there are 57 colleges and universities with a total of 250,000 students in the Atlanta area alone, as well as the main campuses of six technical colleges. In addition to providing outstanding educational opportunities, they offer Atlanta the advantage it needs to attract business and industry, support existing ones, and nurture startups, creating more jobs for the state.
The combination of confidently telling our story to market Atlanta as a university city, and driving strong higher education and business collaboration as outlined in the Metro Chamber’s Forward Atlanta plan can produce powerful results. We’re already doing many of the right things. Now, we are challenged to increase collaboration and tell our story to the world to maximize impact and further boost our state’s economy.
Universities can play a major role in attracting new industry to the state, as well as providing the innovation ecosystem to nurture new companies. Nearly one-third of all research done in America is performed at our research universities. Business and industry look to areas that are rich in higher education resources for their research, as a resource for potential employees, and to provide the infrastructure needed to succeed. The research university provides key resources: faculty, students, professional staff, facilities and intellectual property. It works with government and nongovernment organizations, other universities, vocational schools and individual investors. They all partner with industry markets, including everything from spinouts to multinational companies. Georgia Tech, along with several of our area universities, serves as a magnet for attracting business and industry, and we should continue to leverage that critical economic strength.
We must enhance a vibrant ecosystem to support industry in key markets. At Georgia Tech, we have targeted four elements:
- Identification of strategic markets consistent with economic opportunity and state initiatives such as the Competiveness Initiative, and the Georgia Research Alliance/Centers for Disease Control collaboration.
- Overarching actionable visions in these strategic markets.
- Alignment of and collaboration across disparate public-private entities addressing business vision, economic/policy issues and technology opportunity. Georgia Tech is committed to creating space for an embedded industry presence and to aligning educational and research programs to support innovation in key strategic markets.
- A willingness to innovate with innovation — to try new things. Georgia Tech examples include participation in the National Science Foundation’s inaugural class of NSF Innovation Corps (or I-Corps), FlashPoint for startups, student competitions, improvements in how we license technology and improving how we support companies within the Advanced Technology Development Center, or ATDC. ATDC is the nation’s first university-based technology incubator and widely regarded as one of the best. It has launched more than 75 companies in the last 10 years. ATDC partners closely with the Technology Association of Georgia, the Georgia Research Alliance and other universities and businesses. We need spinouts, but we also need to ensure that there are vibrant markets in Georgia where they can sell and thrive. Georgia Tech provides anchoring space on and adjacent to campus to provide an environment for success.
We have untapped potential through increased partnerships between universities, business, industry and government. For example, last month Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Tech announced a $20 million alliance to advance technological solutions in pediatric health care.
The expanded collaboration combines the strengths of both organizations with a common vision to become the global leader in pediatric technologies. Since 2007, Georgia Tech and Children’s have collaborated on more than 130 pediatric research projects.
Another example of the power of collaboration is the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, jointly created by the Emory University School of Medicine and the Georgia Tech College of Engineering, and ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Manufacturing is a high priority for Georgia Tech, Georgia and the nation. Manufacturing is the largest contributor of U.S. exports, is the source of millions of jobs and is critical to our nation’s economic strength and future. Georgia Tech is developing technological innovation across many domains — such as telecommunications, microelectronics, biotech, energy and robots — that will drive new products and future manufacturing opportunities. Georgia Tech is working with more than 75 companies, as well as technical colleges through its Manufacturing Research Center.
We are very fortunate in the Atlanta area to have outstanding higher education resources. Our challenge now is to make the most of partnership opportunities between universities and business and industry, and at the same time to get the word out that this is the place to succeed.