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Mapping A State’s Innovation Ecosystem: Top Takeaways From the Georgia Innovation Summit

by R. Steven Justice

There’s no doubt this is an exciting time to be a business owner in the state of Georgia, which has been named the number one state for business for five years straight by Site Selection Magazine. One of the secrets to our state’s success is a robust network — an innovation ecosystem — of resources and expertise dedicated to fueling innovation within local companies. The annual Georgia Innovation Summit is dedicated to informing local entrepreneurs on how to tap into these resources.

The 2018 Georgia Innovation Summit recently wrapped up, and I had the privilege of moderating and participating in several discussions covering the latest trends that are impacting local businesses. For those who were unable to attend this year’s summit, here are a few key takeaways that were shared at the event.

A new tool to define Georgia’s innovation ecosystem

Industry experts often talk about innovation ecosystems, but many businesses are unsure what exactly that means. In short, an innovation ecosystem encompasses the network of resources and expertise that is readily available to help organizations within the state translate new ideas into viable products and services. Participants in this ecosystem range from industry associations to universities and non-profits. The gateway to these resources can be found in a number of places, including technology incubators such as the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), and government groups such as the Georgia Centers of Innovation (COI).

The state’s innovation ecosystem is so extensive that it’s impossible to touch on every asset during a one-day summit. This has been addressed with the introduction of a new, complementary tool that COI developed with ATDC — GeorgiaInnovates.com, an online database mapping the resources available to businesses throughout the state.

The growth of cybersecurity across the state

The theme of this year’s Summit was “Redefining the Future of Small Business Through Emerging Technologies.” Many panels and presentations focused on how financial technology, the Internet of Things, and cybersecurity are affecting Georgia businesses. On the topic of cybersecurity, presenters stressed that every business, small or large, needs to stay on top of the latest industry best practices to not only ensure compliance with regulations, but also safeguard company and customer data from digital threats.

Thankfully, Georgia is a hotspot of cybersecurity innovation, with hundreds of IT companies headquartered throughout the state alongside cutting-edge research groups within local colleges and universities. Exciting developments are underway across the state, including the Center for Cyber Defense Education at Columbus State, Georgia Tech’s new high-performance computer center under construction in Midtown, and the new Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta slated to open this summer. These centers will be key sources for new technologies and the trained workforce essential to meet growing cybersecurity needs.

Where can you find your innovation connector?

Organizations that focus on innovation are always introducing new and improved ways of overcoming challenges, so the most important takeaway for businesses attending the Georgia Innovation Summit was how to stay connected with the latest developments. The Summit’s closing panel recapped the groups and resources that always have their doors open to local businesses, including:

  • The Georgia Centers of Innovation, which connect Georgia organizations of all sizes with the industry expertise, research collaborations and business partnerships they need to compete and grow. There are six individual centers each focused on a specific industry, including aerospace, agribusiness, energy technology, information technology, logistics and manufacturing.
  • The Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection, a business development program that enables small businesses to form partnerships with corporate mentors to learn about best practices for supporting long-term success.
  • The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), the state’s technology incubator that helps startups succeed through coaching, networking and access to resources.
  • The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Entrepreneur and Small Business Team, which supports entrepreneurs across the state through mentoring, professional development, strategic planning and resource awareness.

As the state’s innovation ecosystem continues to grow, there will undoubtedly be many exciting developments to share at next year’s Georgia Innovation Summit. Until then, these resources are a great starting point for business owners to connect, compete and grow in the global marketplace.

R. Steven Justice is the Executive Director of the Georgia Centers of Innovation, where he oversees a wide range of programs that help Georgia companies commercialize new products, services and business models through connections to industry experts, university research teams and government partners.

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