Innovation District Update

September 24, 2019
by Jere W. Morehead, President

The Innovation District at UGA is advancing in earnest. This month, the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents approved a $4.4 million renovation of the Spring Street Building in downtown Athens. This renovated facility will provide flexible workspace, conference rooms, and presentation areas to support UGA’s growing pipeline of faculty startup companies. It also will offer space and programs that enable students and industry partners to collaborate on company-based research and development projects.

The inaugural Innovation Fellows and Startup Mentor in Residence programs are underway. Jenay Beer in the College of Public Health and Hitesh Handa in the College of Engineering are UGA’s Innovation Fellows for fall 2019. Throughout the semester, these faculty members are learning about technology commercialization and how they can shape their research programs to better align with industry priorities and better serve the public’s needs. David Salyers, the co-founder of several startups and nonprofits and former marketing executive at Chick-fil-A, is UGA’s first Startup Mentor in Residence. He is giving presentations on campus and meeting one-on-one with faculty and students to provide expertise and encouragement to those looking to commercialize their inventions and ideas.

Additional programs and event series are taking place on campus this fall to further promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and industry engagement. The Innovation District Seminar Series will host three seminars featuring leaders from entities involved in the Innovation District initiative, such as the President’s Office, Innovation Gateway, New Media Institute, and others. The first Innovation Bootcamp will commence with a six-week session designed to address the unique challenges faced by female faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. And UGA’s I-Corps will host a fall showcase of 13 teams—comprised of faculty, students, and community members—that have designed new, consumer-centric technology.

UGA’s Innovation District already is serving its purpose of fostering a community where innovation and entrepreneurship are encouraged and supported. I look forward to seeing many exciting outcomes from this initiative as it progresses.