From the Director: The Innovation Craze in ATL

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In the past ten years, following the global financial crisis, the world has become infatuated with innovation (i.e., technology transfer) and Atlanta (ATL) is no exception. Every state, every city, every university, and every small college now has efforts focused on innovating and commercializing new technologies. In Atlanta, innovation accelerators and co-working spaces have popped up all over the city—I count over 30 as well as that many corporate innovation centers! Just one such place, Atlanta Technology Village, has emerged and serves as an environment where entrepreneurs from more than 250 technology companies collide and share new ideas. This evolution of ATL’s innovation ecosystem is transforming the city into one where investors, industry leaders, researchers, and innovators all converge to create new companies based on the development of groundbreaking technology. There has never been a better time to start a company as the innovation buzz is at an all-time high in ATL!Todd Sherer Photo

Emory is a key player, a co-catalyst, in ATL’s innovation ecosystem. Universities are a great source of technological innovation and with $570 million of research funding, over 600 active clinical trials, and 5 million patient visits to Emory clinics each year, a lot of innovation is happening. Research and healthcare inspires new technology, which leads to new and emerging companies, and that means more jobs.

Although ATL’s innovation landscape has come a long way in the past decade, there is still room for improvement. There needs to be more access to early-stage funding to support innovation because it takes a lot of capital to reduce the risks associated with new discoveries—especially for new drugs and devices. Additionally, I would like to see ATL’s life sciences community continue to grow and develop in the coming years. Emory’s innovations are largely based in life sciences because of our large funding base from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) as well as our healthcare system and affiliations with places like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), Children’s (Healthcare of Atlanta), and the VA (Medical Center).

A more robust community around the life sciences in the ATL, like the one we have in the technology space, could facilitate and accelerate local innovation and research exponentially. When multiple innovators in a given field, such as life sciences, are put in an environment where they are in close proximity to one another, it gives them an opportunity to discuss, network, and collaborate thereby fueling the innovation process. Despite previous efforts to construct a singular locale where Atlanta-based life sciences innovators can co-mingle, an Atlanta (bio)Tech Village so to speak, doing so has remained elusive. Hopefully we can work together to create an innovation hub(s) in the life sciences sector for ATL.