Feature Stories

UGA is an economic engine for the state

In 2013, UGA was designated as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

UGA was one of only 16 universities in the nation to receive the inaugural designation, which acknowledges universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities, including innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and small business and community development.

The University of Georgia's Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and Office of the Vice President for Research are committed to advancing Georgia's economic development by connecting UGA's comprehensive resources to make communities more prosperous and through innovation based on UGA research. It is the responsibility of the university to help improve lives in Georgia and beyond.

Since establishment of the first outreach unit in 1927, UGA has directed extensive resources toward positioning the state as a competitive economic leader. Led by OVPPSO, these efforts, in partnership with state and local governments, the private sector, K-12 education and other key stakeholders, have helped build strong communities able to attract economic development.

UGA's economic engagement programming is complemented by vigorous research programs, led by OVPR. UGA's scientific expertise, technology transfer and tech-based new venture startup programs lead to discoveries that improve lives and boost the economy.

UGA's outreach and research efforts combine to fulfill its land-grant mission: to create jobs and prosperity, develop leaders and address Georgia's most critical issues. UGA strategically aligned these efforts with the state's policy priorities, which include building a stronger, better-prepared workforce and attracting new jobs and industry.

Commitment to the community

Whether through downtown revitalization, marine extension, technology commercialization, community-based leadership or helping to start new small businesses, UGA has a responsibility to help Georgia thrive.

More than 850 students and 200 faculty members from UGA have participated in the Archway Partnership, which places a UGA professional in a community to serve as a conduit between that community and Georgia's higher education resources. Now in 11 counties, Archway marshals academic and service resources to address critical needs, as defined by the community.

The Small Business Development Center, with 17 offices statewide including one in Athens, worked with 4,300 small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs in 2013, helping launch more than 330 new businesses and obtain $78 million in startup capital. Established businesses saw sales growth of 16.8 percent and employment growth of 13.5 percent in a still sluggish economy. SBDC assistance led to the creation of 2,261 new jobs.

UGA has established itself as a change agent for the state through programs and partnerships that build leaders, provide professional development for government officials and share resources to help communities solve critical issues, grow and prosper.

More than 22,000 government employees and officials attended training sessions offered through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in 2013. The Vinson Institute also provides support to local governments seeking to attract business and industry, including economic impact studies, demographic projections, and assistance with developing infrastructure.

The UGA Marine Extension Service/Sea Grant works in coastal Georgia to help communities plan for sustainable economic development. Working with the Vinson Institute, MAREX partnered with Tybee Island to develop a plan to help the coastal community prepare for sea level rise, flooding and storm surges. The plan will guide Tybee officials over the next 50 years as environmental changes affect the community.

A Ventures program through the Georgia Research Alliance, one of the nation's most innovative organizations dedicated to advancing science and technology-based economic development in association with research universities, has funded 60 UGA projects over the last seven years, providing more than $3 million to UGA-based startups. Of the more than 125 companies based on UGA research launched since 1972, 77 remain active employing 664 people.

In 2013, UGA President Jere W. Morehead established an Office of Economic Development in the state capital of Atlanta, 75 miles away, to elevate UGA's visibility among and encourage closer collaboration with the private sector and the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Overseen jointly by OVPPSO and OVPR, the office is aggressively pursuing opportunities for UGA to help businesses expand and to help others relocate to Georgia.

Recruiting business to the state

UGA is committed to helping businesses relocate to Georgia. Galectin Therapeutics Inc., a Boston biotech firm working to develop carbohydrate-based therapeutics for cancer and fibrosis, relocated to Atlanta in 2013 because of its proximity to UGA's Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, one of the largest centers in the world dedicated to the analysis and study of complex carbohydrates. The multitude of resources and services available through UGA also helped in recruiting companies like Baxter International and Caterpillar to the state.

Launching technology-based startups

The Georgia BioBusiness Center, UGA's biotechnology incubator, has a strong track record of expanding the number of high-quality, sustainable and fundable startup companies emerging from UGA research. Nineteen startup companies are currently housed in the center's incubator.

To help facilitate entrepreneurial activities emerging from UGA research, the GBBC provides physical space, lab equipment, business services and access to seed funding through GRA Ventures, and guides companies to federal funding opportunities including the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grant programs. In addition to supporting UGA startup companies, the GBBC also serves as a gateway for recruiting other companies interested in collaborating with UGA researchers.

The GRA Ventures program is a seed funding program sponsored by the Georgia Research Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works closely with the state's research universities and the Georgia Department of Economic Development to spur technology-based economic development and innovation through technology transfer and startup opportunities. Through GRA Ventures, university faculty can begin exploring the commercial potential of their research. GRA Venture projects may include proof of concept studies, prototype development, and market consultant engagement.

The GBBC is important to the Athens-Clarke County community because graduating companies tend to stay in the local area, contributing to the local economy and helping to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. Since 2001, 33 companies have participated in the GBBC program as resident companies and nine have graduated from the incubator.

The GBBC offers leasable space in three buildings on the UGA Athens campus: the Center for Applied Genetics Technologies, Riverbend South Research, and Animal and Dairy Science Building. Most of the companies are located within the Center for Applied Genetics Technologies building located on Riverbend Road.

Moving new products into the marketplace

The discoveries and innovations made by UGA researchers create unique business opportunities to improve lives in Georgia and beyond. UGA's Technology Commercialization Office helps turn these discoveries into tangible products by facilitating partnerships with industry, thus bringing new inventions to the market.

Over 500 commercial products originating from UGA research have entered the market through partnerships with industry over the past 35 years. Over 40 new products entered the market in fiscal year 2013 adding to the legacy of products developed in partnership with industry. Key technologies include therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics for animal and human health; antimicrobials; biofuels and renewable energy; commodity chemicals; food safety technologies; crop/plant varieties including peanuts, soybeans, blueberries and turfgrass; and software and educational tools.

 

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