Innovation U 2.0

In 2002, the Southern Growth Policies Board published Innovation U., which I’ve used frequently in discussing EI2’s mission. Even though the SGPB has evaporated, one of the authors decided the time was right to update their work with “Innovation U 2.0.” 2002 Innovation U cover The 2002 book included this wonderful quote about Georgia Tech:

“Virtually every combination of industry relationship or economic development activity can be found at Georgia Tech, and in a very real sense, the university is an operating partner with Georgia state government in the implementation and management of a variety of technology-focused initiatives. Perhaps more than any other research university in North America, economic development is an integral, critical component of the mission of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and this has been true from its very inception.”

I use that quote in a lot of my presentations because (1) it’s true, and (2) it helps distinguish GT from lots of other schools. Twelve years later, what do they say about us?

Innovation U 2.0

“One of the more heartening aspects of the Georgia Tech story is that the institution has largely stayed true to the aspirations of the founders back in the 19th century. Those aspirations were to develop a first class technological university, one that combined excellence in academic education with a hand ‘in the shop,’ and one that enabled Georgia to create a modern economy. All those things have been achieved and the bar continues to be raised as its impact is felt throughout the world. Georgia Tech is one of the great American stories [of how] sustained inspired leadership, diligence in execution, and an ever-expanding vision and culture can accomplish amazing things.”

The second is a bit wordy, but I think I like them both! I highly recommend that you download and read the entire report. But if you don’t, let me hit some high points:

Universities Included

Innovation U 2.0 focuses on twelve universities that “are exemplars not only in the creation of innovation, but also in terms of outcomes that have economic impacts. Compared to the 2002 study, the universities changed a bit:

University 2002 2014
Arizona State University X
Brigham Young University X
California Institute of Technology X
Carnegie Mellon University X X
Clemson University X
Georgia Institute of Technology X X
Massachusetts Institute of Technology X
North Carolina State University X X
Ohio State University X
Penn State University X
Purdue University X X
Stanford University X X
Texas A&M X
University of California at San Diego X
University of Florida X
University of Utah X X
University of Wisconsin at Madison X
Virginia Tech X

Georgia Tech is one of six universities in both studies. The authors explain that it was time to revisit the study due to significant changes over the last decade, including:

  • Growing consensus on the important TBED role played by universities.
  • Changes in the government science technology innovation policy and funding landscape. (They specifically call out NSF I-corps, the i6 challenges, and NNMI.)
  • Maturation of innovation strategies.
  • Churn among the top performing universities.

For each of the twelve universities, “Innovation U 2.0” examines five key “problems or opportunities”:

  1. University Culture: Goals and Aspirations
  2. Leadership
  3. Entrepreneurship
  4. Industry and Community Partnering
  5. Technology Transfer

A Few Quotes…

On organization: “Notable among our cases has been the growth of boundary-spanning enabling organizations and activities. Heretofore, most universities developed external partnerships on a case-by-case basis; several of the universities in this volume have established centralized and consolidated organizations to function as enablers. The Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech, headed by a Vice President, coordinates and oversees 14 programs dealing with innovation and entrepreneurship, most of which involve partnerships with external organizations.”

On entrepreneurship: “The placement of entrepreneurship within a business school silo is the conventional arrangement, but if it inhibits the ability of any student in any discipline to practice entrepreneurship within that discipline (for example if turf issues limit the number of courses/seats offered), this may not be a good thing.”

On economic development: “The technology clusters of companies around major research universities are no accident. They are evidence of what happens when boundary spanning between abstract theory and applied science occurs. University innovation matters because it is an important engine to generate entrepreneurial ecosystems within local economies.”

Georgia Tech

They quote approvingly from our 2010 Strategic Plan: “As envisioned by our founders, Georgia Tech will continue to be an economic driver for Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and the nation…we will create a culture where students and faculty are both scholars and entrepreneurs.” There are several nice descriptions of Georgia Tech:

  • “Georgia Tech — a place that is both theory and science-driven but also a place that has become very good at fostering technological innovation, applications, and knowledge-based enterprise.”
  • “One of the assumptions and themes of this book of cases is that innovation, entrepreneurship, and private sector interest is enhanced when universities do more research and problem-solving in the context of interdisciplinary centers and institutes. Georgia Tech has wholeheartedly embraced that assumption.”
  • “These involvements put Georgia Tech in fairly exclusive company among institutions that are able to launch and maintain these fairly complex partnership relations with other institutions as well as corporate technology leaders.”
  • “Of note, roughly 50% of licenses executed by Georgia Tech in 2012 were granted to Georgia companies.
  • Georgia Tech takes its innovation mission seriously, and has done so for a long time.

And there’s one of of the better writeups of EI2 that I’ve ever seen (and that includes ones that I’ve written!):

The programs are quite diverse in terms of clients or participants, physical and organizational location, and collectively they encompass a continuum that extends from early technology and venture development to established firms with significant history.

These programs leverage a mix of state, Federal, and private sector funding to enhance economic development in the state of Georgia. Conceptually, the programs and clients are all united by the emphases on innovation and entrepreneurship, and the structure enables program leadership to share best practices and policies across the heterogeneous mix.

Among the cases in this volume [Georgia Tech’s EI2] is probably the most novel organizational solution to the inherent diversity of activities that fall under the labels of innovation and entrepreneurship, and one that seems to have enough authority to give it a fair trial.

Taking Innovation to the Community: Technology Square

A few months ago, we celebrated Technology Square’s tenth anniversary. Innovation U 2.0 understands what Georgia Tech ahs done here, and the impact we are having:

“Technology Square can be seen as an intentional design effort by Georgia Tech to foster inter-sector engagement by creating a mixed-use district. The plan was announced in 2000 and much of the site was built out by 2003, although additional buildings are still being constructed. Much of the site was originally vacant surface parking lots. Tech Square can access the main campus via a pedestrian plaza bridge.

Georgia Tech buildings located there include: the College of Business, notably the Ferris-Goldsmith Trading Floor; the Advanced Technology Development Center; Venture Lab; the Technology Square Research Building, that is home to five research centers with 500 faculty members and students; and the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. Technology Square also houses extensive retailing, restaurants, condominiums, and office buildings.

Technology Square is still only 10 years old. It is early and the aspiration is that this area will evolve into a high tech bazaar with a large variety and number of entities involved.”


I’ve cut-and-pasted a lot of this column, because it’s widely distributed and I want people to know what others are saying about Georgia Tech in general and EI2 specifically. None of what we do is easy. None of it happens without great effort. And — although it’s easy to forget — none of this was inevitable.

There are plenty of great research universities who didn’t value their potential for economic development, didn’t embrace an innovation mission, and who didn’t have the history of leadership and vision that we’ve had over the decades at Georgia Tech.

Y’all may know the story of the pig and hen discussing ham and eggs for breakfast. The chicken is involved but the pig is committed. People all across Georgia Tech are involved in the university’s innovation mission, but the people of EI2 are uniquely committed. It’s nice to see some external validation that what we’re doing is recognized. Keep up the good work!