The University of Georgia was founded on a truly innovative idea: to inspire future generations through public higher education. In doing so, we have changed the lives of individuals, strengthened communities, and fostered economic vitality. Today, the birthplace of public higher education in America continues to fulfill its historic promise, and innovation is the key to our future.
The University is developing an Innovation District to harness its vibrant innovation ecosystem. Destined to be the University’s campus of the future, the Innovation District will be at the interface of historic North Campus and downtown Athens and will include an integrated set of facilities offering a broad range of spaces and amenities to inspire collaboration, discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The first of these facilities is Studio 225 (pictured here), the new home for UGA’s Student Center for Entrepreneurship.
Future facilities within the District will support faculty startups, industry and community collaboration, and project-based learning and will build on programs such as the Entrepreneurship Certificate and UGA’s Innovation Gateway, which are fueling the growth of the campus innovation ecosystem.
Thinking beyond convention will be the hallmark of the district, generating breakthrough ideas and novel solutions. Ultimately, the Innovation District will invite more industry partners to campus to collaborate with talented faculty and students on commercial projects, and it will create unique internship and research opportunities for students, ensuring they are prepared to become leaders in our knowledge-based economy.
As a student, Kaitlin Lutz saw a problem. According to her research, the construction industry was suffering from a skilled worker shortage. Her solution was to create a program that supports, connects, and advances women as skilled professionals and leaders in the construction industry: Sparke Women. In January, Lutz won a $5,000 grant from the UGA Idea Accelerator Program, an eight-week session that prepares students to solve problems and start businesses. Lutz, who graduated in May, plans to use that grant to get Sparke Women up and running.
The Entrepreneurship Certificate Program combines classroom instruction with experiential learning to equip students with the knowledge and skills to launch their own startup ventures.
The Entrepreneurship Certificate Program has grown from 33 students in 2015 to more than 420 students in 2018-19. It has become a key element of the Innovation District Initiative. While the program is housed administratively in the Terry College of Business, it is open to students of all majors. Certificates are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the comprehensive curriculum includes training to help students become future innovators in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
We’re trying to make sure students develop the skill set and know what it takes to start their own businesses by themselves, wherever they are in life.Bob Pinckney, Director, Entrepreneurship Certificate Program
This summer, the University launched Dawg Camp Innovate, a weeklong Athens immersion program for 20 incoming first-year students. The program offered a unique opportunity to launch new ideas as students participated in projects alongside Athens nonprofits and built relationships with local entrepreneurs. While discovering their new home in the Classic City, Dawg Camp Innovate participants built a sense of community and explored opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship before their college careers officially began.
David Balinsky, who completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 2018, worked with UGA faculty and students to invent the Shepherd Drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle that detects skin temperatures in cattle, indicating possible disease. Balinsky went through UGA’s I-Corps program, a National Science Foundation seed funding program for commercial innovation, to test and develop his invention. I-Corps is run through UGA’s Innovation Gateway.
For first-year students, a career as an entrepreneur lifts off at the Launch Pad, a living-learning community created to ignite innovation in students. Launch Pad residents live on the fourth floor of Creswell Hall, where academics revolving around innovation are integrated into residence hall life. In the program’s charter year (2018-2019), 26 residents moved in. The community was such a success that the 2019–20 Launch Pad will include up to 40 residents.
The new home for the Student Center for Entrepreneurship, Studio 225, opened in March. It offers a space where student entrepreneurs can meet with peers and mentors to develop ideas, as well as a pitch deck for entrepreneurship competitions.