Categories
Announcements From the VPR

April 2022

As both a land- and sea-grant university, UGA’s mission to serve its community is embedded in its DNA. That community not only includes Athens and the rest of Georgia, it also extends to our larger community across our country and around the world. To amplify and extend our service to and collaboration with these communities, the university actively fosters partnerships with individuals and organizations, including businesses large and small.

Indeed, strong partnerships with industry are critical for UGA to reach its goals, including our research goals. Industry partners support the research enterprise by providing pathways to market for faculty inventions, as well as funding cutting-edge research and scholarship to expand human understanding and drive innovation. UGA’s industry partners also provide valuable experiential learning opportunities for our students, such as internships and coops, not to mention hiring our students once they graduate.

For example, UGA’s longstanding relationship with Boehringer-Ingelheim has produced numerous, tangible outcomes that have advanced human and animal health around the world, provided rich experiential learning and professional development opportunities for UGA students, and helped to prepare the next generation of leaders in veterinary medicine.

To support and expand vital collaborations like the one we’ve enjoyed with Boehringer-Ingelheim, last year the university created the Office of Business Engagement (OBE) reporting jointly to the Office of Research (OoR) and Development & Alumni Relations (DAR). Led by Executive Director Kyle Tschepikow, OBE’s mission is to cultivate long-term, holistic partnerships with companies that help expand the positive impact of the business and our university. It focuses on three primary objectives:

 

    • Connecting companies to programs and people across campus
    • Facilitating university-industry research collaboration
    • Attracting philanthropic support to advance UGA’s mission

 

OBE is meant to serve as UGA’s front door for companies looking to partner with us, while also providing resources, support and guidance to faculty who wish to engage in industry-sponsored activities. The office works closely with Innovation Gateway, Sponsored Projects Administration, the UGA Career Center, schools, colleges and other units to support a coordinated and strategic approach to industry engagement.

Physically located within the Innovation District (the innovation spaces at the interface of UGA and downtown Athens) at One Press Place, OBE’s joint reporting line to Research and DAR recognizes its importance as a connector, an organizer and a facilitator across the university. Through its activity, OBE will also work alongside our Small Business Development Center, Student Entrepreneurship Program and Innovation Gateway to grow UGA’s culture of innovation.

Indeed, if we are to grow that culture of innovation, we must do it collaboratively with our industry partners. They provide the vital pathway that connects many of our research discoveries with their practical application in the world. I’m excited about the potential of this new OoR/DAR initiative; please do reach out to Kyle at kyletsch@uga.edu if you have questions about forming or expanding partnerships with industry.

Wishing you a smooth transition to a productive and refreshing summer.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

 

Categories
Announcements From the VPR

Next month the University of Georgia, as well as the broader Athens community, will celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit at the Innovation Showcase, to be held April 26 in the Delta Innovation Hub. The event is intended is intended to celebrate the success of those entrepreneurs who have worked tirelessly, taking risks to move their ideas and technologies to market, as well as to attract and inspire new innovators to turn their own entrepreneurial dreams into reality.

With this annual celebration fast approaching, now is a great time to reflect on the activity and success in research commercialization that was a key driver in UGA’s decision to launch its Innovation District initiative more than three years ago. Having served on the task force that recommended forming the Innovation District, I’m especially enthusiastic about this topic; it represents one of the best ways we as academic researchers can ensure our work is leveraged for the greatest benefit to society.

I’m sure you’ve heard about our Top 5 ranking in bringing new products to market through collaboration with our industry partners. Indeed, UGA has never not been in the Top 5 as long as this metric has been available. But that number only begins to describe the history of success UGA has had in research commercialization—a history that stretches back several decades. Did you know that the Bradford assay, a method to quantify protein still used today, was discovered at UGA in the 1970s? Overall, more than 900 products based on UGA research have reached the market, including over 250 products in just the past five years.

In the numbers released each year by AUTM, you would be hard-pressed to find a measure in which UGA is not among the nation’s leaders. Number of active commercial licenses? We’ve been in the Top 10 for 14 straight years. Annual licensing deal flow? Also Top 10 for 14 years. Total active startup companies? Top 30 for 18 years.

The list goes on. The National Academy of Inventors has existed for only 12 years, yet in that short time 12 UGA faculty members have been elected as NAI Fellows, and another eight elected as senior members. In the 2021-22 cycle alone, three more UGA faculty members were elected into each of those categories.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a small decrease in our commercialization activity, there is still plenty of good news to share. Did you know external funding for UGA-related startups has tripled in the past five years? We have approximately 120 startup projects in our pipeline, a number that has remained constant since pre-pandemic.

Last December we officially opened the Delta Innovation Hub, which has quickly become the campus research commercialization engine. Providing both event space and office square footage for companies that want to be close to UGA research talent, the Hub is filled nearly every day and many evenings with innovators both new and seasoned. To see this historic building reimagined and now functioning as a whirring Hub for creative innovation has been one of the true pleasures of my time as VPR. I’m so grateful to the Delta Air Lines Foundation for making this space possible.

There is much more to come in 2022 from Innovation Gateway, UGA’s research commercialization unit, based in the Office of Research. Our Innovation Bootcamp, which has trained nearly 100 budding entrepreneurs, is set to expand thanks to the generosity of the Truist Foundation. Having enrolled three cohorts of female innovators and a fourth dedicated to the music industry, this spring and next academic year we plan to enroll cohorts of computing researchers, entrepreneurs of color and military veterans in the program.

Innovation Gateway recently received federal funding to enhance its NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program with new technology to connect people remotely, as well as a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) FAST grant to provide grant writing assistance to startup companies across the state. Gateway also is expanding its graduate student internship program, which has trained 30 students over the past five years in the business of research commercialization, to enroll recent Ph.D. graduates as postdoctoral licensing associates.

What does this mean? Of all those licensing deals that garnered AUTM recognition, the vast majority are with Georgia companies, helping them stay competitive and keeping significant financial return within the state. As for UGA startup companies, one analysis showed that UGA-affiliated startups—through the jobs they create—have an annual economic impact of $531 million, including $322 million in Georgia alone.

And, of course, there is the broader impact on our own students, faculty, staff and friends. As the UGA Entrepreneurship Program has exploded in size, the Innovation District and all the real-world opportunities it affords to students have grown with it. The Delta Innovation Hub serves as a showcase for our innovation ecosystem, hosting tours for elected officials, industry partners, donors, business owners and others interested in UGA’s success.

UGA’s Innovation District brings together the passions and talents represented on every corner of our campus, from engineering to fine art to veterinary medicine, journalism, music, psychology, bioinformatics and so many more. It represents the ideals of a land-grant university, putting the products of our research and discovery mission to work for our communities.

If you haven’t been involved in the Innovation District, I encourage you to attend our Research Live event, “The Latest in Research Commercialization @ UGA,” on Friday, April 8, at 11 a.m. Derek Eberhart, associate vice president for research and executive director of Innovation Gateway, along with Ian Biggs, director of startups, will share all of this news and more, as well as answer your questions.

I hope you’ll participate!

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Categories
Announcements From the VPR

In December the UGA Terry College of Business released its 39th annual Georgia Economic Outlook, which predicted that—by the end of 2022—Georgia would fully recover from the pandemic-inflicted recession. According to the projection, the state economy will grow by a robust 4.3% this year, and its unemployment rate will fall to about 3.2%, lower than pre-pandemic levels.

One area of the economy that has recently grabbed Georgia and UGA attention is electric mobility. In December, the electric vehicle company Rivian announced that it would site its second manufacturing plant east of Atlanta, a $5 billion investment that will employ more than 7,500 workers. This followed on the heels of SK Innovation’s decision to build a $2.6 billion electric battery facility near Commerce, just a few miles up 441 from Athens.

While those two projects generated a lot of headlines, they’re not the only good news for Georgia in e-mobility. Ascend Elements (formerly Battery Resourcesannounced in January that it would open the largest North American battery recycling facility of its kind in Covington, a $43 million investment that will add another 150 jobs and process up to 30,000 metric tons of discarded lithium-ion batteries and scrap each year.

Blue Bird, maker of those instantly recognizable yellow school buses, is now producing hundreds of all-electric buses at its two facilities in Fort Valley. To provide infrastructure in Georgia for all this electric mobility, other companies are building e-charging stations and establishing parts suppliers.

While electric vehicles traditionally attract all the attention—automakers alone are expecting to invest $250 billion in them by 2023—e-mobility is no longer just about electric cars. Aircraft, boats, bicycles and drones are all moving toward electric propulsion technologies. Autonomous software, batteries and storage technology, and network and cybersecurity infrastructure are all needed to support this sector.

That’s where UGA comes in. Last summer our Carl Vinson Institute of Government partnered with the Governor and the Georgia Department of Economic Development on the Electric Mobility and Innovation Alliance. The alliance brought together public officials and business leaders to identify and develop a comprehensive, statewide strategy to recommend policy that will boost our workforce, research and innovation, supply chain, and infrastructure for this sector.

Recently UGA announced its Electric Mobility Initiative, which will bring together students, faculty and staff together from various disciplines to support research and development, sustainability, security and regulation, community and economic development, and business impacts from this industry. Together with private funding, UGA will invest $1 million to create new initiatives to support e-mobility research and development, including a new certificate program in the College of Engineering and battery research in our new I-STEM complex.

So how do researchers connect with economic development? From his office in Atlanta’s Technology Square, Matt Colvin, UGA’s director of economic development, works to help connect state industries with UGA research talent. Matt has worked for both the University System of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and he has the experience and contacts to help turn potential research collaborations into reality. If your research aligns with our Electric Mobility Initiative, or if you have other ideas about how to connect your research program with industry needs, I encourage you to reach out to Matt at mcolvin@uga.edu.

I look forward to supporting many of you who are involved in this work. The Electric Mobility Initiative is so vitally important not just to Georgia’s future, but to that of our country and our planet. We are excited to partner with the state on this initiative and leverage our academic and research expertise to help Georgia become a world leader in e-mobility technologies.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research