Economic Development Administration Awards Georgia Tech $65 Million for AI Manufacturing Project

The Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded a $65 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support a statewide initiative that combines artificial intelligence and manufacturing innovations with transformational workforce and outreach programs. The grant will increase job and wage opportunities in distressed and rural communities, as well as among historically underrepresented and underserved groups.

The Georgia Artificial Intelligence Manufacturing Technology Corridor (GA-AIM) effort is one of 21 winning projects the White House announced today under the Biden administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The award follows a $500,000 Phase 1 feasibility grant the project received in 2021.

“Georgia Tech is honored to lead this vision of collaborative innovation and economic development across all regions of our state,” said Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera. “This award underscores the Institute's commitment to leverage our resources and expertise to address great challenges, serve our state and nation, and amplify our impact on the world.”

The selected awardees represent projects in 24 states with grant amounts ranging from $25 million to $65 million.

“As we invest and grow critical industries in the U.S., we want to create industry hubs in diverse communities across the country,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “These grants will provide critical and historic funding directly to community coalitions to invest in new infrastructure, research and development, and workforce development programs while creating good-paying jobs, supporting workers, and prioritizing equity.”

The GA-AIM project is led by Aaron Stebner, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering; Donna Ennis, director of Diversity Engagement and Program Development in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and also director of its Georgia MBDA Business Center; and Thomas R. Kurfess, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute.

“The ability to integrate our discoveries and innovations here at the AI Manufacturing Pilot Facility with novel workforce programs and transformative outreach experiences is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something greater in ways that increase opportunity and prosperity for all Georgians,” Stebner said. “Through an equitable AI manufacturing innovation focus, the assembled coalition of partners and stakeholders across the state will build a more prosperous and resilient Georgia and set a nation-leading example.”

The AI Manufacturing Pilot Facility, which will allow for government and industry pilot trials, cybersecurity games, and workforce training for AI manufacturing technologies, is just one component of Georgia Tech’s support for the project.

Two of Georgia Tech’s commercialization programs — VentureLab and I-Corps South — will create a center for the commercialization of AI manufacturing technologies into local and regional startups through training built on the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps curriculum.

The Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, will engage in focused outreach and technical assistance to small- and mid-sized manufacturers and minority business enterprises through its Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) and Georgia MBDA Business Center programs. Other Enterprise Innovation Institute programs include the Economic Development Lab, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, and ATDC, which will focus on outreach and engagement in distressed and underserved parts of the state, create workforce development programs, implementation strategies, and attract outside investment.

“The work that we will accomplish with our broad spectrum of partners in this new endeavor will leverage the latest technology in artificial intelligence to grow and strengthen our workforce ensuring that the growing manufacturing sector in Georgia has the skilled workforce that it requires for today’s as well as tomorrow’s needs,” Kurfess said. “At the same the high paying and secure jobs will be going to a very diverse population base from across the state, providing an equitable robust future for all citizens of Georgia.”

Georgia Tech’s Supply Chain & Logistics Institute will study the impact of automation technologies, build automation solutions tailored for rural manufacturers, and create programs that lower the barrier for rural manufacturers’ access to use the AI Manufacturing Pilot Facility.

In addition, Georgia Tech's Ethics, Technology, and Human Interaction Center (ETHICx), led by faculty in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, will help integrate considerations of equity, fairness, accountability, and transparency into GA-AIM and promote the responsible and ethical use of AI-manufacturing technologies.

Finally, Georgia Tech’s K-12 InVenture Prize and Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing programs will expand their emphasis to rural and underserved areas of the state by piloting a rural regional event with a region-specific prize. They will also create supplemental lessons centered on AI and data science that will be part of a K-12 InVenture Prize curriculum website.

“We are excited to be a part of this collaborative effort to catalyze research and innovation in AI and manufacturing across the state of Georgia,” said Chaouki T. Abdallah, executive vice president for Research at Georgia Tech. “This project aligns with our goals to expand economic opportunity in our state's underserved communities, and to serve as a collaborative hub for interdisciplinary research that advances technology and improves people’s lives.”

Georgia Tech is working with a coalition of statewide partners to create a foundation that supports existing business growth and new business ventures across the state especially in underserved communities and rural Georgia.

“All across the state of Georgia, our programs in the Enterprise Innovation Institute work hard to unlock potential and foster economic opportunity for all, particularly in underserved and marginalized communities,” said David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, and co-author of the grant proposal with Stebner. “This project leverages what we and our partners each do best to help achieve our broader Georgia AIM goals.”

Tech’s partners include the:

·       Georgia Department of Community Affairs

·       Georgia Cyber Center

·       Houston County Development Authority

·       KITTLabs

·       Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs

·       Robins Air Force Base 21st Century Partnership

·       Spelman College

·       Southwest Georgia Regional Commission

·       Technologists of Color

·       Technology Association of Georgia Education Collaborative

·       Technical College System of Georgia

·       University of Georgia

“What's really special about this effort is that it's centered on a wholistic approach with innovation, not just one piece of AI or manufacturing,” Ennis said. “We're working collectively statewide to transform and propel forward our industry, communities, and most importantly, our people.”

That collective approach is critical to GA-AIM’s success, said Houston County Development Authority Executive Director Angie Gheesling.

“The Development Authority and the 21st Century Partnership lead the Middle Georgia Innovation Project, which includes 11 counties in the Middle Georgia region, a diverse landscape of communities from rural to urban,” she said. “This award further facilitates the continuation of several years of collaboration between local leadership, our universities, private industry, and Robins Air Force Base to position ourselves as a Software Center of Excellence. We are grateful to Georgia Tech for the opportunity to partner and contribute to the overall future success of GA-AIM.”

Burunda Prince, chief operating officer of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, echoed those sentiments, saying its reach is exponentially amplified through the GA-AIM partnership.

The Center will create a mobile, 5,000-square-foot LaunchPad AI Innovation Studio to provide prototyping and proof-of-concept development of physical products. Black entrepreneurs in rural and urban Georgia will have access to equipment, training, and mentoring, and LaunchPad AI will also be open to AI InVenture teams from Atlanta’s urban K-12 schools.

As part of the Build Back Better grant, the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs will help Black businesses leverage the benefits of artificial intelligence to provide better data and insights that will build stronger companies and drive greater wealth generation,” Prince said. “What makes this opportunity unique is the cross collaboration of partners which will engage and empower communities across Georgia through access to technologies that often are inaccessible.”

Equally as important is the education component and the ability for it to be a bridge to new skills and opportunities for Georgia workers, said Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Greg Dozier.

“The funding for the project will equip four TCSG colleges with state-of-the-art manufacturing studios that will showcase the clean, safe state of modern manufacturing,” Dozier said. “Automation in manufacturing creates a demand for more skilled jobs, giving TCSG the charge to strengthen the workforce pipeline by training Georgians in these exciting, new technologies. The Georgia AIM project provides the funding to meet these opportunities head on.”

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About the U.S. Economic Development Administration 
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. 

About the Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 44,000 students representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

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