By Aaron Hale/UGA Today
The next phase of the University of Georgia’s Innovation District is advancing.
The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents approved the renovation of the Spring Street Building, which will be transformed into a creative and dynamic space to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and industry engagement at UGA. The $4.4 million project is expected to be completed by January 2021 through the support of private donations.
“First and foremost, we are grateful to the Chancellor and the Board of Regents for supporting this critical next step in the development of UGA’s Innovation District,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “This exciting project will provide a unique space at the heart of North Campus and downtown Athens, where faculty, students, industry partners and community members can collaborate, innovate and develop solutions to real-world problems.”
Located at the corner of Spring and South streets, a block off Broad Street in downtown Athens, the building will provide flexible workspace, conference rooms, and presentation areas to support UGA’s growing pipeline of faculty startup companies. The renovated facility will also offer space and programming to enable students and industry partners to collaborate on company-based research and development projects.
Last year, UGA ranked first among 193 U.S. institutions for the number of commercial products reaching the market, according to a survey released by the nonprofit AUTM, which tracks technology transfer. In the same survey, UGA ranked fourth for the number of new intellectual property licenses executed to industry.
“By almost any measure, the innovation ecosystem of the University of Georgia is booming,” said Kyle Tschepikow, special assistant to the president and director for strategy and innovation. “The Spring Street Building, as the next phase of the Innovation District initiative, will enable the institution to accelerate research commercialization, expand industry engagement, and provide rich experiential learning opportunities that prepare our graduates to be successful in the Innovation Age.”
This project follows the completion of Studio 225—named for its West Broad Street address—which opened in March 2019 as the first phase of the Innovation District initiative. Studio 225, also funded by private donations, supports UGA’s rapidly-growing student-focused entrepreneurship program, which launched with one instructor and 33 undergraduates just a few years ago and has quickly transformed into a campus-wide initiative that reaches more than 1,000 students each year and includes a wide variety of academic and experiential opportunities.
The Innovation District initiative over time will include an integrated set of facilities, programs and services all designed to inspire innovation, entrepreneurship, industry collaboration and experiential learning, ultimately making the university a more powerful driver of economic development locally and across Georgia.
In September 2018, Morehead charged a 16-person launch team, led by Tschepikow, to implement the initial strategy for the Innovation District initiative, including developing programmatic infrastructure, assessing short- and long-term facility needs, and building partnerships with industry and community leaders.
Morehead also assembled an external advisory board this past spring to ensure that the initiative moves forward with input from the private sector and the local business community. The board includes distinguished university alumni and supporters, industry partners and business leaders, and other individuals with expertise and experience related to the initiative.