Business & Economy Campus News

President’s Innovation District Task Force presents recommendations

Launch team assembled.

The University of Georgia’s Innovation District Task Force has delivered its final report to President Jere W. Morehead. The report outlines a strategic vision and corresponding action steps to create a hub—or district—on campus to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and industry collaboration.

Morehead has endorsed the task force report and assigned a launch team to oversee the initial stages of the innovation district project.

“The future success of this institution—and of all public land-grant universities, for that matter—lies in its ability to find solutions to pressing challenges; to develop new ways of thinking and doing; and to support the jobs, companies and industries of the 21st century,” said Morehead. “Those are the top-line objectives of this important university initiative, and I am excited to get the project underway.”

The 15-member task force submitted its final report in July following seven months of intensive study and visioning. The group included faculty, administrators, alumni and business leaders, and the effort was led jointly by Vice President for Research David Lee and Vice President for Government Relations Griff Doyle.

“The vision of the Task Force,” the report reads, “begins with an imperative: the University of Georgia must strengthen its innovation ecosystem to remain relevant and responsive as a land-grant institution in the 21st century and to continue its rise as a premier national and international research university.”

The report goes on to state that the key to this evolution is the creation of an “energetic innovation district at the interface of North Campus and downtown Athens.”

This district, as imagined by the task force, includes an interconnected set of facilities offering a broad range of spaces and amenities to expand the university’s innovation ecosystem. It would be designed to foster a high level of collaboration of UGA faculty and students with industry and community partners through the development of appropriate facilities and programs.

Incubation and co-working spaces are envisioned to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and to develop the pathways necessary to accelerate commercialization of discoveries and ideas generated at UGA. The district also would include open and flexible space curated to promote “creative collisions” and “blue-sky” thinking as well as event space for hackathons, pitch contests and other large-scale community events.

The 14-person launch team charged by Morehead will be led by Kyle Tschepikow, who assumed the position of special assistant to the president and director for strategy and innovation on Sept. 1.  Tschepikow previously served as assistant to the president supporting several strategic university initiatives, including, most recently, the Innovation District Task Force.

The launch team will involve representatives from key units across campus, and its early work will focus on developing a master plan for the district that contemplates programming, business operations and governance, and short- and long-term facilities needs.

The University of Georgia is known nationally for its strong innovation ecosystem, ranking in the top five among all U.S. universities in new products reaching the marketplace and in the top 10 for technology licensing productivity. More than 675 products based on UGA research have been introduced to the marketplace, and more than 160 companies have been started. The university also offers an entrepreneurship certificate as well as a wide range of entrepreneurship programs to equip students with the tools and resources they need to pursue their own startup ventures.

The task force report can be found at:

Innovation District launch team members:

  1. Paul Brooks, Associate Vice President for Public Service and Outreach
  2. Toby Carr, Associate Vice President for Government Relations and Director of State Relations
  3. Marshall Chalmers, Associate General Counsel in the Office of Legal Affairs
  4. Gwynne Darden, Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning in the Division of Finance and Administration
  5. Derek Eberhart, Director for Innovation Gateway in the Office of Research
  6. Crystal Leach, Director for Industry Collaborations in the Office of Research
  7. David Lee, Vice President for Research
  8. Henry Munneke, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Roy Adams Dorsey Distinguished Chair in Real Estate in the Terry College of Business
  9. Bob Pinckney, Director for Entrepreneurship Programs in the Terry College of Business
  10. Ramaraja Ramasamy, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Assessment and Associate Professor in the College of Engineering
  11. James Shore, Senior Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration and Budget Director
  12. Rahul Shrivastav, Vice President for Instruction
  13. Kyle Tschepikow, Special Assistant to the President and Director for Strategy and Innovation
  14. Jill Walton, Executive Director for Corporate and Foundation Relations in the Division of Development and Alumni Relations