University of Georgia

Truist commits $1.25M to UGA Innovation District

people meeting in conference room
(Left to right) Metropolis CEO Scott Edwards, UGA faculty member Dee Warmath and students Aries Aviles and Calvin Butson meet inside the Delta Innovation Hub, which will house the Truist Community Innovation Initiative’s activities. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker)

The University of Georgia has received a grant of $1.25 million from the Truist Foundation and SunTrust Trusteed Foundations to establish the Truist Community Innovation Initiative, a multifaceted effort to enhance collaborative spaces and develop new programming and support for aspiring entrepreneurs in the Athens community.

“I want to thank the Truist Foundation and SunTrust Trusteed Foundations for their generous support of UGA’s Innovation District,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This grant provides vital resources to connect entrepreneurs on campus and in the Athens community in ways that will strengthen the creative culture and technology-based economy of our city. We are excited about this impactful initiative and are very proud to have Truist as a partner.”

Housed within the Delta Innovation Hub, the Truist Community Innovation Initiative will fund Innovation Bootcamps, the Truist Community Innovation Fund and a series of monthly “Lunch and Learn” events. Each component of the initiative engages the Athens community in unique ways, with the goal of making the university’s innovation ecosystem more visible and accessible to local entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. In addition, the initiative will enhance the plaza and other areas of the Delta Innovation Hub to foster community and collaboration.

“The Truist Foundation is committed to strengthening small business and unlocking access to opportunity for diverse entrepreneurs,” said Truist Foundation President Lynette Bell. “The Truist Community Innovation Fund Initiative will help aspiring entrepreneurs resolve critical problems, stay relevant in the competitive market and contribute to economic growth.”

Innovation Bootcamp is a multiweek, cohort-based program launched in 2019 that offers education and mentorship to aspiring entrepreneurs to help them develop their ideas into viable business plans. While open to everyone, each bootcamp is designed to examine challenges faced by underrepresented entrepreneurs and innovators. The 2019 program focused on women entrepreneurs, and the most recent program supported music industry entrepreneurs. Future programs will focus on entrepreneurs of color and veterans.

The new Truist Community Innovation Fund will provide Athens-area entrepreneurs access to Delta Innovation Hub resources — including seed funding, maker equipment, coworking space and mentorship — to help them bring their ideas to market.

The new Lunch and Learn series will provide a space for university and community entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate and learn. The grant funding will support up to eight learning sessions per year, with the first session anticipated in fall 2022.