At the end of the spring 2012 semester, the Strategic Plan Implementation Steering Committee (SPISC) successfully completed its direction of the work of the 16 task forces charged with developing initiatives for elements of the Institute’s Strategic Plan. I take this opportunity to thank all members of the SPISC and task forces for an excellent job. The membership and their reports are available at www.gatech.edu/vision.
Investments have since been made in several efforts to fulfill the SPISC’s final recommendations. This year, the Institute has provided supplemental funding of approximately $2 million from both state and Georgia Tech Foundation resources to augment new work undertaken by units across the Institute, made possible through the prioritization of their own budgets. Projects are moving forward, embedded in the operating units responsible for piloting new ideas. The following is a summary of those activities where the EVPR’s Office is heavily involved or taking a lead.
2010-2011 Strategic Initiatives (click on a title to jump to the description)
2011-2012 Strategic Initiatives
A task force was formed in July 2010, with memberships representing all colleges, Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC), and Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), to propose actionable steps to make Georgia Tech’s innovation known worldwide. The task force defined the vision based on experimentation with innovation across its entire education, research, and economic development programs. This initiative complements other strategic initiatives such as the X College, the Burdell Center, the use of campus and the region as a living laboratory, enhanced collaborative partnerships, and the strengthening of industry-focused research and translational activities. Outcomes to date, as evidenced by the following examples, include a 7x increase in startup creation in 2012, more student-centered experiential opportunities, and enhanced outreach to industry.
- Flashpoint – Regional participants wishing to create a company applied to this startup acceleration program and were selected through a competitive process. Each was assigned a mentor, someone who has been a successful entrepreneur. Two 12-week education sessions were held in 2011 and 2012, and 32 companies were created. A novel feature was the opportunity for each new company to present to potential investors in Atlanta, Ga.; New York City, N.Y., and San Jose, Calif. The fact that 30 companies have received investments is testimony to the success of this experiment.
- NSF Innovation Corps – Based on the early success and experiences with Flashpoint, Georgia Tech submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to serve as an initial startup training site for NSF. The proposal was accepted, and Georgia Tech is now mentoring a second class of NSF grantees who have applied to NSF for commercialization seed funding.
- Georgia Tech Integrated Program for Startups (GT:IPS) – GTRC, along with EI2, developed a streamlined licensing program and internal training for faculty, staff, and students interested in forming a startup company. Four sessions of the training have been offered.
- Student Engagement – Students have expressed a strong interest in pursuing commercialization activities and in expanding upon opportunities afforded by the InVenture Prize competition and through the Georgia Tech Research and Innovation Conference (GTRIC). Currently, there is student representation in 70 percent of Georgia Tech invention disclosures. A course is being developed and space created in the library building to support startup activities. In addition, more disruptive innovation challenges, like the Smart Grid Challenge, are being marketed to local companies who wish to engage with students in support of problem-based learning. Lastly, an opportunity for students to gain co-operative education credit by establishing their own startups or by working for a startup in the Georgia Tech Venture Lab or the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is under consideration.
- Startup Engineering – Faculty have seized upon the concept of “startup engineering.” A research center devoted to this topic is being developed by Professor Merrick Furst in the College of Computing. Additional faculty members in the Scheller College of Business and Ivan Allen College are devoting more effort to research in this exciting area.
2. Pursue Globally Significant Grand Challenges Using the Campus and Region as a Test Bed for Research and Application
This initiative involves assessing Georgia Tech’s strengths and proposing opportunities for research and application. This intent has been adopted as a central tenet for the Research enterprise. It is today embedded in diverse programs at GTRI, EI2, and other notable campus initiatives such as the National Electric Energy Testing, Research and Applications Center; Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing, Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, and the Aware Home.
New capabilities are also being developed such as a Health Interoperability Environment (in partnership with the State of Georgia Department of Community Health), which facilitates the adoption of electronic patient records. In addition, by partnering with the Midtown Alliance, Georgia Tech now has access to an urban test bed to explore scalable solutions for sustainability and next-generation information technologies. Similarly, efforts are under way in the West End to provide opportunities for faculty and staff to support STEM outreach. New buildings are being brought online and refurbished to serve as pilot plant scale venues for Georgia Tech and industry to work on problems ranging from carbon capture, to additive manufacturing, to development of biomedical devices, to nanotechnology.
The campus continues to play a vital role in serving as a living laboratory for research projects including water utilization, environmental enhancement, innovative use of apps, and smart grid applications for more efficient energy utilization.
Georgia Tech will continue to pursue strategic partnerships in a wide range of areas. One important aspect is to initiate renewed and visionary planning with Georgia Tech’s partners in metro Atlanta to help advance the “live-learn-work-play” community envisioned in the Strategic Plan. This initiative is central to education, research, and the campus master plan.
In 2012, the new Georgia Tech research education and research center, the Center for 21st Century Universities, began a partnership with Coursera and Udacity to explore the development and utility of massive open online courses (MOOCs).
The opening of the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons as an innovative physical structure and as a collaborative partnership between student government organizations and the library, has led a transformation of the center of campus.
A new strategic partnership with the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta was announced in 2012 to support research and its application in pediatric technologies including regenerative medicine, nanomedicine, and health systems.
Strengthened partnerships with industry, complemented by internal collaborations across the Institute, are also being explored. Collaborative partnerships between the Metro Area Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Technology Association of Georgia, and other universities and technical colleges are under way. The Georgia Research Alliance has been a key partner of Georgia Tech’s, helping to attract top talent and pursue issues critical to society and the state’s economic vitality. Strengthened partnerships with Emory have resulted in a new master’s degree in law, shared facility planning for the libraries, and extensions to the well-established bioengineering partnerships.
Georgia Tech has extended its efforts to extend its influence at the federal and state levels as a partner and expert resource able to assist with policy formulation. This is demonstrated in the Institute’s support for the White House initiative on advanced manufacturing, the Department of Commerce task force on innovation and export control reform, and numerous advisory boards including the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and NASA.
Internationally, the Institute is the only public U.S. university to partner with the World Economic Forum. The Institute’s partnership with France is also significant, given the recent renewal of support by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the support for the Lafayette Institute at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Strengthened partnerships in China, Costa Rica, Ireland, Panama, and Singapore are also being explored.
Formerly called “Create a Virtual Georgia Tech Campus”
GT Journey, created in 2012 in support of the Strategic Plan, is a growing suite of applications, curated data sets, and easy-to-use technology-based tools leveraging crowdsourcing to help students with a multiple aspects of the college experience including enjoying campus life, succeeding in academics, advancing career planning, and participating in mentoring initiatives throughout their Georgia Tech careers and beyond.
The three-year GT Journey effort builds on a foundation of curated data, created both for and by students (and other members of the campus community), which is integrated into daily life and tied to the larger community. Much of this effort is conducted through the Convergence Innovation Competition (CIC), led by the Research Network Operations Center in the Office of Information Technology and in conjunction with the Institute for People and Technology, College of Computing, and GTRI. The CIC is an annual industry-sponsored competition in which students design and build applications for smartphones, set-top boxes, and other environments.
FY2012 GT Journey objectives include building on foundational elements by adding location data and services. Foundational platform elements include: GTmob, Argon, Campus Tour, Campus Map, detailed building and location data, mobile development platforms, mobile and other devices, software licenses, cellular air-time, and secure application program interfaces (APIs) for authoritative campus and student data.
FY2014 objectives include dramatically increasing the visibility of the GT Journey project to drive broad engagement of students and stakeholders from the entire campus; continuing to work with campus partners to complete the work on access to data started in year one; leveraging deeper integration with campus technology with a focus on social applications; and beginning the process of engaging alumni, visitors to campus, parents, and Tech’s Midtown neighbors.
The FY 2015 objectives include working with Tech’s partners on their particular challenges and opportunities, expanding community access to applications that leverage pervasive data, and developing a sustainable support model.
This task force met during the calendar year 2011-2012 as a follow-on to the earlier Innovation Task Force. The purpose was to review and improve the strategy for the Research enterprise as described on the EVPR website. The principal goal was to propose actionable recommendations that would result in the Institute’s becoming a leading institute in public-private partnerships. The task force endorsed the strategy articulated by the EVPR office, which included the external marketing of the Institute’s breadth and depth of research into core research areas. Other recommendations of this task force included further enhancement of communication to industry and external stakeholders, streamlining of contracting and licensing instruments, and development of a “single point of contact” approach to integrate philanthropic, research, and other outreach support to industry clients. The task force also urged consideration of refinancing of campus buildings, using taxable rather than tax-free bonds, to maximize opportunities for more embedded industry presence and for enhanced faculty training and support. At the time of the task force report in April 2012, GTRC and EI2 were rolling out new training programs, an enhanced approach for Venture Lab, and streamlined master agreements spanning the continuum of industry need. A new task force was chartered in early 2013 to further pursue the recommendations, specifically with regard to instituting a better “single point of contact” outreach approach and providing more faculty support for industry engagement and development of large proposals.
The Energy and Sustainability task force made several recommendations related to better integration of energy and sustainability efforts, strategic investment in faculty around core strength areas, investment in differentiating energy-research infrastructure, and enhancement of undergraduate and graduate educational initiatives. To facilitate these efforts, a new executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute (SEI) was brought on board. Actions undertaken included a comprehensive organizational analysis completed by the Office of Organizational Development on SEI’s structure that led to a realignment of resources.
In terms of enabling infrastructure, the Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions building is now occupied, and leadership continues to study proposed infrastructure options, which would provide highly distinctive R&D capabilities. An internally funded campus smart grid study has been initiated, which will consider how to best deploy the campus itself as a test bed. The SEI has made a concerted effort to communicate the outputs of the task force, as well as the closely related conclusions from an external energy advisory group, to deans and school chairs across the Institute. This effort has provided important context for faculty searches, promoting further build out of space in areas identified by these groups.
Educational progress has been made in developing the Energy minor, and a proposal targeting foundation funding has been developed to support these efforts. Additionally, the 2012 Nunn Forum was devoted to the topic of energy and sustainability; as a result, there has been ongoing Institute-wide discussion, facilitated by GTRI and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs on the topic of security and sustainability. The Energy 101 MOOC has been launched and has received wide praise from its diverse student body around the world, which includes business executives.
Additionally, a variety of discussions have taken place around more closely integrating task force work across the campus. Two sustainability-related foundation grants were recently received – one focusing on integrating sustainability considerations into business, and a second joint SEI-Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems foundation grant focusing on E&S education.
Central to all of these efforts has been the focus on deploying Georgia Tech’s extensive strengths in E&S, through broadened thought leadership and enhanced education and training for the workforce, to help solve some of the most critical problems society will face this century.
This task force identified three grand challenges, which are also areas where Georgia Tech maintains a competitive advantage: environment and health, biomedical therapies, complex biological systems.
Beyond identifying grand challenges, the committee made the following recommendations:
- Establish a faculty council that spans biomedical and biological sciences, similar to the Materials Faculty Council, to provide input and guidance to senior leadership about campus bio-related initiatives.
- Institute core facilities for high-performance computing, high-throughput DNA and protein screening and sequencing, 3D motion analysis, and magnetoencephalography.
- Program the new Engineered BioSystems Building (EBB).
- Create an office to oversee postdoctoral education and visiting scholars.
- Better define – and expand – the seed grant program to promote interdisciplinary research.
A number of action items have already been accomplished; they include: new faculty lines assigned to the College of Engineering and the College of Sciences, many of which are being used to hire faculty in the priority areas identified above; a number of seed grant programs administered within interdisciplinary research institutes to promote interdisciplinary research; approximately $5M committed for developing world-class core facilities in the Technology Enterprise Park and in EBB. Programming of EBB has served as a model for planning of collaborative space: It has been led by faculty, facilitated by staff, informed by Georgia Tech’s collective experience in facilitating interdisciplinary space, and supported by senior leadership.
It was further recommended that there be better coordination of existing and future seed grant programs, which includes ensuring the programs meet the goal of enhancing collaboration across the biomedical/biological sciences continuum on campus. The task force also suggested identifying effective ways to recognize co-located space and integrate faculty working at the interface of environment and human health with faculty working in the area of biomedical health. The EBB complex, when realized with EBB2 and EBB3, should address this gap; however, the time schedule for institutional commitment for the start of EBB2 is yet to be determined.
Lastly, it was recommended that a faculty council be organized in the biological and biomedical sciences. Several committees, however, are already working to build ‘bridges’ across biomedical and biological sciences. These include the Healthcare Task Force; the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Partnership Faculty Council; and the Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences – all of which continue to be good stewards for the biomedical sciences. Recent efforts on Predictive Health offer exciting possibilities for new partnerships between biological sciences and engineering, and also between Georgia Tech and Emory.
Policy@Tech is a consortium of Georgia Tech’s five policy research centers where the goals are to: increase Georgia Tech’s policy impact by shaping state and national discussions on critical global challenges; catalyze Tech faculty/student interaction with decision-makers; increase communication among policy research units; extend the network of policy-related centers and individuals across campus; and raise the visibility of policy-related research on and off campus. The Policy@Tech Executive Committee began meeting in December 2010 and has generated the following:
- Proposal for “Technology Policy Institute”: This concept was presented to the Georgia Tech Strategic Plan Steering Committee to assist in fulfilling Georgia Tech’s stated vision of being internationally recognized for thought leadership in matters relating to the implications of science, technology, and innovation for the public.
- Speaker Series: Since 2011, Policy@Tech has sponsored or co-sponsored over 25 speaker events, with attendance ranging from 12 to 150 attendees and an average of 30 to 50. Speakers have included Georgia Tech faculty as well as policy practitioners from state and federal agencies.
- Policy Partners: This is a group of Georgia Tech faculty members who have served in government or on government advisory bodies. As of March 2013, there are over 75 Policy Partners.
- Survey of Policy Briefings: This is a comparative study of 22 science- and technology-focused academic institutions conducted to determine the feasibility of publishing policy briefs to inform key stakeholders about current science and technology policy issues.
- Domain-Specific Policy Community Meetings: This involved two working group meetings among Georgia Tech faculty conducting research in health information technology and STEM education. Each meeting was attended by 15 to 20 faculty members from various departments.
The task force recommended that this institute be formed to both manage the Ivan Allen Prize for Social Courage award and to support an Institute-wide campus discussion on significant societal problems that require both interdisciplinary research breakthroughs and leadership based on social courage. The Ivan Allen Institute for Advanced Studies is administratively managed within the Ivan Allen College and works closely with both the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research. It is developing a strategy and an operations plan (which includes a case statement for seeking sponsorship through philanthropy and sponsored awards).