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In April 2010, more than 140 leaders from higher education endorsed and submitted a letter to then Commerce Secretary Gary Locke through his National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). These leaders, including Georgia Tech’s president, G.P. “Bud” Peterson, committed to work more closely with industry, private foundations, investors, and local, state, and federal governments to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and the commercialization of research results. Underlying their commitment was a willingness to employ strategies, enhance existing activities, and expand efforts in several areas, including:

  • Promoting student innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Encouraging faculty innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Actively supporting the university technology transfer function
  • Facilitating university – industry collaboration
  • Engaging with regional and local economic development efforts

The Department of Commerce’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) recently followed up with the signatories to better understand their efforts to embody and implement the ideas contained within the letter, as well as to improve their ability to develop policies and programs that support innovation, entrepreneurship, and the commercialization of research results. OIE is conducting phone calls with every respondent to discuss their strategies and develop a general outline of each of their initiatives. 

For a select few institutions, including some who did not sign the NACIE letter, OIE has conducted a more thorough exploration of their strategies and initiatives. The goals of these “deep dives” are to discuss the historical and cultural context for the relevant work being done at leading institutions, highlight innovative practices, and uncover future trends. Through this exploration, OIE will be better equipped to advise on policies and develop future programs.

Georgia Tech Campus Landscape

The University Innovation Fellows of GT 2014 and 2015, created a campus map that guides students on the ways they can engage in innovation and entrepreneurship on campus. 

To view the complete landscape canvas for Georgia Tech's campus, and surrounding Atlanta area, please follow the link below:

GT 2014 -

GT 2015 -

GT 2016 -

GT 2017 -

GT 2017 FALL -

Overview – A Focus on Industry and Collaboration4

The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), a public research university in Atlanta, Georgia, is part of the University System of Georgia. Established in the 1880s on the heels of the Industrial Revolution, Georgia Tech’s mission has always focused on assisting industry. For example, the university’s basic and applied research efforts have been instrumental for the global aerospace industry, with Georgia Tech scientists playing key roles in the development of radar and other flight technologies. Georgia Tech focuses intently on the basic-to-applied research continuum throughout its comprehensive research programs in engineering, physical and life sciences, computing, and policy. Georgia Tech’s Strategic Vision and Plan () infuses a focus on innovation and entrepreneurism across the spectrum of basic and applied research as well as in its educational programs. Viewed in broad themes, research at Georgia Tech includes work in:

  • Big Data;
  • Biotechnology and Biomedicine;
  • Electronics and Nanotechnology;
  • Manufacturing, Trade, and Logistics;
  • Materials;
  • National Security;
  • Paper and Science Technology;
  • People and Technology;
  • Public Service, Leadership, and Policy;
  • Robotics;
  • Sustainable Infrastructure and Energy; and
  • Systems.

Georgia Tech’s culture embodies a collaborative approach. It enlists outside partners and contributors including academic, governmental, industry, and nonprofit institutions in an effort to better understand and ensure the benefit of research to the nation. In 1937, Georgia Tech established what is now the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC), an internal outpost for engineering experimentation and entrepreneurial applications of engineering, science, and technology. Georgia Tech also operates the oldest and largest university-based business incubator in the United States, the Advanced Technology Development Center, which was established in the 1980s to provide a range of services and facilities for entrepreneurs to launch and build new companies. Recognized by Forbes in 2010, the Advanced Technology Development Center has graduated 143 new companies, which have helped create millions of dollars in revenues and which together have attracted nearly $2.5 billion in capital activity. Capital activity includes venture capital funding, other investment, and the value of mergers and acquisitions.

Georgia Tech incorporates several strategies to ensure that it continually improves and expands its services to industry. To ensure it meets its fiduciary responsibilities and maintains public trust and confidence, the university continually strives to reduce bureaucratic barriers and modify underperforming initiatives. For example, the university has launched the Georgia Tech Integrated Program for Startups, GT:IPS™, which combines a streamlined licensing program with organized support for faculty and student inventor-entrepreneurs. The program provides information and education for entrepreneurs to help them form stronger, more successful companies, and the streamlined GT:IPS license agreement helps simplify negotiations and “take the drama off the table.”

Three of Georgia Tech’s more recent initiatives to promote innovation and entrepreneurship based on broad stakeholder partnerships include Flashpoint, NSF I-Corps, and the Global Center for Medical Innovation. Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech startup accelerator program established in 2011, encourages basic and applied research and facilitates their transfer to the marketplace through entrepreneurial education and access to experienced mentors, experts, investors, and stars in an open, immersive, shared-learning workspace.

In July 2012, Georgia Tech was named as a node for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program. NSF Director Subra Suresh describes I-Corps as a program to “leverage productive public-private partnerships and extend the impact of fundamental research discoveries.” He noted that it has “inspired the research and business communities to collaborate in new ways.” Georgia Tech is serving as a teaching site for the hands-on I-Corps curriculum.

Finally, the Global Center for Medical Innovation, which opened in 2012 with support from the Economic Development Authority’s i6 Program, will bring together core members of the medical device community — including universities, research centers, clinicians, established device and drug companies, investors, and early-stage companies — with the goal of accelerating the commercialization of innovative medical technology.

The NACIE commitment letter was broadly disseminated to Georgia Tech faculty and administrators and elicited general consensus prior to President Peterson’s endorsement. University stakeholders who were invited to review and comment on the letter were found to be already committed to its expressed ideas and goals. The letter’s real impact was to add “force” and “intentionality” to Georgia Tech’s innovation, entrepreneurship, and tech transfer strategic vision by providing a time scale for faculty and administration efforts, documenting their commitment, and holding them accountable.

Innovation and entrepreneurism are hallmarks of educational programs as well as research and technology transfer. Problem-based learning gives students an opportunity to develop ideas and technologies within their disciplines, and increasingly, activities such as the General Electric Smart Grid Challenge () provide a venue for companies to explore disruptive concepts through student engagement.

Over the past few years, Georgia Tech's entrepreneurial ecosystem has been growing rapidly, with both, faculty led and student led initiatives. There are startup clubs, startup discussions and even new funds through Georgia Tech that foster student innovation and encourage students to develop their idea/innovations into marketable products.

Below is an enumeration of several Georgia Tech programs and initiatives that support the five buckets in the NACIE sponsored university commitment letter.

Student Entrepreneurship

Students at Georgia Tech are an active part of research and discovery. In fact, over 70 percent of invention disclosures name one or more students among the inventors. As part of a broader effort to foster innovation and entrepreneurship within its student community, Georgia Tech has several initiatives, including:

  • Georgia Tech Invention Studio — student-run design-build-play space open to all Georgia Tech students. It is staffed by University Lab Instructors, student volunteers who are on hand to train new students on machines and help with invention prototypes.The space provides resources for designing, prototyping, and sharing ideas through workshops, vendor networks, experienced guidance, and access to cutting edge machines.

  • Georgia Tech Integrated Program for Startups, GT:IPS — An initiative that supports faculty and student inventor-entrepreneurs through two components: GT:IPS Facilitation, a graduated program of support, information, and education for new company founders; and GT:IPS License, which offers the same terms to all Georgia Tech startups in the same field and provides them with transparency into Georgia Tech Research Corporation’s (GTRC) licensing processes.


  • InVenture™ Prize — An annual competition that inspires undergraduate teams to create inventions that will be judged by experts for more than $30,000 in cash prizes from Georgia Tech and sponsoring corporations. First and second place winners receive patent filings funded by GTRC, and in March 2011, a “People’s Choice” award was sponsored by NCR Corporation.


  • TI:GER — An award-winning program and partnership between Georgia Tech and Emory University School of Law that brings together PhD, MBA, and law students to experience the challenges of commercializing innovative technologies. Now approaching its 10th anniversary in 2012, TI:GER is expanding to global entrepreneurship and has become an established part of the entrepreneurial education of graduate students on both campuses.


  • Business Plan Competition — An annual competition, now in its 11th year, held by the Scheller College of Business and the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship to foster entrepreneurship among Georgia Tech students and recent alumni. Since its inception, more than 650 participants have received approximately $570,000 in cash and services, and each year several teams launch companies to take their product concepts to market. To date, eight winning teams have been accepted into Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center.


  • Ideas to SERVE (I2S) — An annual competition of ideas where creativity, imagination, and the use of technology are applied innovatively to solve community and social issues and sustain the environment. Started as a specialty track of the Business Plan Competition in 2009, I2S has quickly grown into a separate event, contributing to Georgia Tech’s portfolio of programs that foster entrepreneurship. I2S is open to Georgia Tech students and recent alumni.

  • Georgia Tech Starter The world’s first peer-reviewed, university-based crowdfunding platform for science and engineering projects. It is a platform for students, scientists, and engineers to engage directly with the world wide community, and to receive market feedback on their projects. GaTechStarter is also an experiment to see if the world is ready for a more active role in the scientific process. 

  • Startup Summer A GT program that offers student teams $20,000 and mentorship over the summer to pursue their startup with a full time commitment. This program is entering its second year with the summer of 2016.

  • Startup Semester — This is a student run program conducted during the semester, and aims to provide entrepreneurship education, guidance, and mentorship to students with ideas, and a motivation to pursue them.

  • Startup Exchange — This is a student run organization that meets weekly, and organizes huddles and meetups with other student entrepreneurs, students looking to be entrepreneurs and successful entrepreneurs from the Atlanta area.

  • Idea to Prototype - This is a GT run program that offers course credit, research grants and faculty mentorship to student teams that want to pursue their idea and turn it into an actual product, over a period of 1-2 semesters.

  • MIS Business Plan Competition - This is a business plan competition organized every semester, by the new Management Information Systems club at GT. It is judged by industry professionals from companies like Bank of America and Deloitte.

  • 3 Day Startup - This is a traditiional 3-day startup initiative at GT, organized every semester. Students and professionals (selected through an application) get together and try to build a business in 72 hours.

  • Global Social Venture Challenge - This is a global competition for student entrepreneurs in the social sector. Georgia Tech is the East Coast hub of the GSVC, with Berkeley in the West Coast.

  • Convergence Innovation Competition - This is a technology innovation competition organized by the GT RNOC every semester, in to foster innovation in specific areas of technology, like telecommunications and transport.
  • Design Bloc – A classroom and prototyping space that emphasizes design thinking through design behavior. The 5 tenants that students are taught are Empathy, Rapid Iteration, Contextual Awareness, Entrepreneurial Spirit and Creative Craft.

Faculty Entrepreneurship

Georgia Tech has several awards and programs to incentivize faculty to mentor graduate students, or themselves, to pursue innovative research and entrepreneurial ideas. These include:

  • Bio-impact Commercialization Team (BCT) — An initiative focusing on research in biomedicine whereby faculty members and the venture capital community work closely with experts in the biomedical device space to facilitate translational research and commercialization. The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation will fund the BCT’s translational research and development projects.


  • The Georgia Tech Fund for Innovation in Research and Education (GT FIRE) — A program that facilitates planning for large extramural proposals — those of strategic value to the Institute that have more than $500,000 in direct costs per year—and provides support for feasibility studies of transformative ideas in research and/or education. This past spring, faculty submitted 42 transformative proposals, from which three research-related ideas and four education-related ideas were selected for funding.

  • I Corps - The Innovation Corps (I-Corps) teaches National Science Foundation (NSF) grantees to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research and offers entrepreneurship training to student participants. I-Corps is a public-private partnership that prepares students to extend your focus beyond the laboratory by broadening the impact of select, NSF-funded basic-research projects.  The primary goal of I-Corps is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported by NSF-funded research.

  • Humanitarian Design and Engineering Studio - The Rehabilitation Engineering and Applied Research (REAR) Lab undertakes applied research and device development targeting the increased heath and function of persons with disabilities. Specific areas of interest include: wheeled mobility and seating, pressure ulcer prevention and treatment; design of diagnostic tissue interrogation devices; design of assistive technology.

  • Enterprise Innovation Institute - Enterprise Innovation Institute is Georgia Tech’s chief business outreach and economic development organization. The core mission is to help business, industry, entrepreneurs, and economic developers across Georgia grow and remain competitive.

University Technology Transfer Functions

  • The Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC) — The contracting entity responsible for several of the university’s tech transfer and licensing processes. GTRC also aims to accelerate the formation of robust Georgia Tech spinout companies and broaden participation in entrepreneurship among faculty and students. In addition, GTRC has revised master agreement terms and developed new template agreements to meet the needs of industry sponsors as technologies progress in development.


  • Georgia Tech VentureLab — A one-stop-shop providing comprehensive assistance to faculty, research staff, and  students who want to take their technology innovations from the laboratory to the commercial market. VentureLab specialists help these innovators “start up” by assisting in business plan development, connecting them with experienced entrepreneurs, and locating sources of early-stage financing, including seed grants from the Georgia Research Alliance. The program has fostered, on average, one new spinout each month over the last three years.


  • Georgia Tech Edison Fund — A source for modest investments into early-stage technology startups that have a strong connection to Georgia Tech. This fund makes use of targeted charitable contributions from Georgia Tech alumni and friends.

  • Flashpoint  — Flashpoint creates better startups, faster, welcoming committed founders with domain knowledge and a passoin for responding to the needs of their customers. Flashpoint helps shape startups with true market + product fit, reduced risks, lower costs, and a better chance of high quality success. Flashpoint is not classfified as an incubator nor accelerator, but rather a rigorous management and education program that works closely with founders to creat companies.

  • Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) - ATDC is a startup incubator at Georgia Tech that helps technology entrepreneurs in Georgia launch and build successful companies. Headquartered in Atlanta's Technology Square, ATDC serves as the hub for technology entrepreneurship in Georgia. ATDC Select is a three-year incubator program for high potential technology companies.  

University-Industry Collaboration

  • University-Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP) — An activity of the National Academies that works to demonstrate innovative approaches to research engagement and improve relationships with private industry for research and commercialization of inventions. Georgia Tech has been a member and active participant since the UIDP was founded in 2005. The recently published Researcher Guide, a collaborative effort of UIDP university and industry members, provides information for university and company scientists and engineers who wish to engage in sponsored or collaborative research.


  • The Office of Industry Collaborations and Affiliated Licenses (ICAL) — An organization that works in close coordination with faculty, academic units, and university offices, including the Office of Sponsored Programs, Office of Innovation Commercialization and Translational Research, Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI²), and Advanced Technology Development Center, in their partnerships with private industry to help promote industry-sponsored research and further technology commercialization. Types of agreements facilitated by ICAL include nondisclosure, industry collaboration, consortium, memorandum of understanding, center bylaws, testing, and SBIR.


Regional and Local Economic Development

An economic impact study by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business indicates that Georgia Tech made a $2.3 billion economic impact during the fiscal year 2011, the highest of any institution in the University System of Georgia (USG). The study also found that Georgia Tech generated 18,640 full- and part-time jobs. Most of the economic impact in the study consists of initial spending by USG institutions for salaries and benefits, supplies and expenses, and other budgeted expenditures, as well as spending by students who attend the institutions.

Georgia Tech also impacts the local and regional economy in several others ways, including:

  • Research partnerships with business and industry in the state of Georgia and throughout the Southeast;
  • Economic development services to help make Georgia’s small and medium-sized businesses and communities more innovative and efficient;
  • The more than 48,000 Georgia Tech alumni who live and work in the state;
  • Research labs that produce more than 300 invention disclosures annually;
  • A strong patent portfolio, ranked eighth among the top 124 universities according to the 2009 Universities Patent Scorecard;
  • Spinning off an average of ten new companies a year;
  • The Economic Development Authority i6 grant, which we received in 2010 to support innovation and entrepreneurship and boost the quality of high-growth startups in the region. EDA funding has helped advance economic development activities through Georgia Tech’s University Center of Excellence and also through a recent Jobs Accelerator award, where Georgia Tech partners with Gwinnett Tech to prepare students for work in health information technology; and
  • EI2, which serves Georgia through a network of industry specialists located in nine regions throughout the state. These specialists provide local businesses with direct technical and engineering assistance, professional education courses, networking opportunities, and connections to Georgia Tech resources.


During fiscal year 2011 alone, Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2):

  • Evaluated 219 Georgia Tech innovations and helped form 17 new companies based on this intellectual property, which attracted nearly $100 million in investment;
  • Helped manufacturing companies reduce operating costs by $35 million, increase sales by $191 million, and create or save 950 jobs through the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, a program funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the state of Georgia, and industry clients;
  • Assisted 493 start-up technology companies through the Advanced Technology Development Center. These companies attracted nearly $100 million in venture capital investment and mergers/acquisitions; and
  • Helped Georgia companies win $492 million in government contracts, creating an estimated 9,843 jobs through the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center. 


Deep-Dive Questions

  • Is innovation an integral part of Georgia Tech’s institutional culture?
    • How can Georgia Tech's focus be shifted more towards innovation?
    • Is it possible to do the same for entrepreneurship?
  • Why is it important? And how does it influence entrepreneurship and tech transfer?
  • How do you envision your program in the future?
  • What is your vision for each of the case study’s buckets?
  • How does your institution leverage (or intend to leverage) geographic endowment?
  • Are your innovation, entrepreneurship, and tech transfer programs integrated?
  • Why, or why not?
  • Are there any unique successes (and or challenges) you may wish to highlight?
  • What can be done to alter the student and faculty mindset on campus, to make it more entrepreneurial in its entirety?
  • Since GT is so industry focused, how can that be used to motivate innovation on campus?



The Georgia Institute of Technology is a top-10 public research university and an Association of American Universities (AAU) member school. Jilda Garton’s comments have been instructive in better understanding Georgia Tech’s many entrepreneurship, research, and technology transfer programs, in addition to the impact of the NACIE commitment letter in framing Georgia Tech’s strategic plans and institutional culture.

The Georgia Tech entrepreneurship ecosystem is well in its advanced stages, yet it lacks in some minor areas. When addressed, GT will truly be an entrepreneurial campus, where every student can pursue entrepreneurship without any fear, and with the full support of all around them.

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship thanks Georgia Tech’s assistance with this case study and looks forward to a continued close and collaborative relationship in building America’s innovation infrastructure.

4Comments By Jilda D. Garton, Vice Provost for Research, General Manager, GTRC and GTARC

New Entrepreneurship & Innovations Programs:

New Entrepreneurship & Innovations Programs:

The Office of Industry Collaborations and Affiliated Licenses (ICAL):

Economic Impact of University System Reaches $13.2 Billion:

Tech's Economic Impact on Georgia:

Source: "The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Focus", Department of Commerce, October 2013.

Related Links

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology Student Priorities

University Innovation Fellows

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Taft Weber-Kilpack

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Spring 2017:

Julie Leonard-Duke

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Jason Weis

Spring 2016:

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Fall 2015:

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Spring 2014:

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