No Lack of Possibilities – STIP Summer 2011 Interns

From urban agriculture to health information technology, STIP interns offered fresh perspectives on economic development Sept. 9, 2011, when they presented results of their summer research projects at Technology Square.  The seventh annual readout session was attended by an audience of faculty, students, economic developers and government officials.

In an introduction, Jan Youtie from Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and a co-director of the intern program, noted, “New and good ideas are a vital part of economic development.  The STIP interns do that.”

Mobile augmented reality

Nettrice Gaskins, a doctoral student in Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Communication and Culture, investigated the emergence of a new field called mobile augmented reality (AR)—the overlaying of digital information onto the real world via a camera phone or other camera-enabled mobile device.  Mobile AR increases the level of engagement among users (employees and customers), she said, noting that consumers can see, in 3-DE, color, design and other features of a product before buying it.  The market is expected to grow in the next three to five years, she reported, adding that global revenues could reach $1.5 billion by 2015.  The total mobile AR market will be split into seven categories, 75 percent of which are games, location-based services and enterprise applications.  And the applications are many, including multimedia, health and education, she said.

Metro Atlanta houses nine AR companies, which represent a pre-emerging cluster stage, according to Gaskins.  “A critical mass is building quickly in New York City but more slowly in Atlanta,” she said.  Still, Atlanta is well-positioned to support AR startups, she said, adding that investors must become more aware of AR and the field needs to get on “government radar.”  She recommended (1) increasing networking opportunities, (2) encouraging collaborations, (3) recognizing new policy tools, and (4) integrating local content.

Energy efficiency and conservation block grants

A doctoral student in Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy, Ben Deitchman, examined the federally funded energy efficiency and conservation block grant program in Georgia, part of an effort to bring energy efficiency activities to the local level with the aim of reducing emissions, cutting total energy use and creating/retaining jobs.  The economic development angle entails investing in green jobs and growing the energy services industries.

Funds have been allocated across the state, chiefly in metro Atlanta and the larger counties, with the three greatest allotments going toward energy audits and retrofits, he said, followed by street lighting, then roofing.  The bulk of the grant money has gone to schools and government office buildings.  In Georgia, he said, only 74 percent of recipients reported job creation, 57 percent reported business development, and 19 percent reported household savings.  Low-cost policy options for sustaining the work beyond the grant include (1) creating local energy committees, (2) establishing revolving loan funds and tax credits, and (3) continuing education, training and certification.  Working along these lines, he suggested, could help meet the Georgia Energy Challenge—reducing energy consumption 15 percent by 2020.

Innovation in health information technology

Deji Fajebe, a doctoral student in Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, looked at patent activity related to health information technology (HIT) and how well Georgia can take advantage of patents generated here to foster growth in this industry.  In his study, patent counts represented a measure of HIT innovation, and a significant impetus was federal stimulus funding via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of $19 billion devoted nationally to HIT.

He examined several domains of innovation, which included bar coding and RFID, electronic health records, handheld devices, clinical decision support, claims/billing, and picture archiving and communication systems. Over his study period, most patent activity occurred in clinical decision support, then claims/billing, then electronic health records.  The number of published patents, he noted, significantly increased in the wake of ARRA dollars.  The biggest clusters of inventors and assignees (firms marketing the items) occurred in the Northeast and on the West Coast, he said, adding that most inventions in HIT are U.S.-owned, and even more are commercialized by U.S. small and midsize companies. Georgia, said Fajebe, has a presence on the inventor side but is weak on the assignee side, that is, it lags behind in commercialization of HIT and must come up with policies to capture HIT innovation and foster growth.

Urban agriculture

Working on a master’s degree in city and regional planning at Georgia Tech, Mary Richardson researched urban agriculture and identified opportunities for and barriers to it in Atlanta.   She identified several models—such as community gardens, urban agriculture businesses, school gardens—as well as numerous benefits, including blight remediation, energy savings, improved water quality, green jobs and improved access to food.  Her work drew on case studies from Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta.

Challenges to full blossoming of urban agriculture include zoning matters, water cost/access, public awareness, land acquisition, few trained personnel and lack of an appropriate governing body.  But on the plus side, she observed that the Atlanta Land Bank has identified 90 properties for urban agriculture, markets and demand are growing, and Atlanta has three successful startups and the city has issued two urban agriculture-related RFPs.  Richardson’s study included a vacant-land survey, and according to her Atlanta has 2,000-plus acres in some seven dozen suitable parcels.  Among her recommendations: (1) create a Food Policy Council, (2) develop suitable ordinances for land acquisition, (3) include food system planning into the city’s planning, and (4) include urban agriculture programs in youth outreach and job training.  Public-private partnerships and grants for pilot programs could also nourish the concept.

Georgia Tech’s program in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) launched the intern program in 2005, and since that time 25 graduate students have conducted economic development research under it. Topics have ranged from Hispanic enterprises and biofuels to telecommuting and energy planning.  Each year, the program receives 20 or so proposals from which a committee reviews and selects three or four.  The interns spend the summer conducting their research projects and receiving mentoring from STIP faculty.  This year the committee comprised Greg Torre from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Pat Sims from Georgia Power Company and Dennis Chastain from Georgia EMC.

The interns’ full reports are available from the menu under Internship Program on this website. For more information about the internships, contact Jan Youtie(jan.youtie@innovation.gatech.edu, 404/894-6111. STIP is a collaboration of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and School of Public Policy.

Intern’s Investigations and Insights

In early September 2009, four STIP student interns reported results from their summer research projects, which ranged from foreign direct investment and green-building assessment to manufacturing survival factors and waste-to-energy technologies.  The STIP internships, which began in 2005, are designed to provide graduate students a complete research experience from conception to execution to presentation of their results, according to STIP Executive Director Robert Lann.  “Having the students present their results to economic development practitioners, as well as faculty, gives them a sense of what it takes to turn research into something others can make practical use of,” he said.

Jennifer Chirico, a doctoral student in Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy, compared traditional and advanced technologies for solid waste management and evaluated their potential to reduce waste, generate renewable energy, decrease landfill emissions, and promote sustainable economic development.  Conventional technologies included landfills, recycling, and incineration; more advanced methods encompassed gasification/pyrolysis, landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE), plasma arc gasification, and mechanical/biological treatment.

She noted that solid waste management began as a public health issue, subsequently becoming important, too, in terms of environment, economic development, and public policy.  Her research indicated that Georgia spends $782 million annually managing solid waste, with 91 percent of the waste going to landfills.  The state’s average in pounds per person per day is higher than the national average.  In general, Georgia lags behind in adopting newer technologies, but she noted that DeKalb County has a decade-old LFGTE facility and Toombs County a gasification/pyrolysis operation.  The most established and economical method for decreasing landfill emissions such as methane and generating renewable energy, Chirico said, is LFGTE, but the most sustainable and practical solution may be a combination of recycling, composting, and advanced technologies.

Her recommendations for Georgia included: (1) state incentives for renewable energy, (2) funding assistance for advanced technologies, (3) policies that focus on waste reduction, and (4) assistance with regulations and permits.

Another doctoral student in the School of Public Policy, Stephen Carley, investigated what aspects most influence a company’s survival during today’s manufacturing decline, with the idea that this knowledge could contribute to suitable strategies for rectifying the problem.  Using Georgia Tech’s 2005 Georgia Manufacturing Survey, he focused on the state’s traditional industries—food, textiles, and pulp and paper, which contribute half the state’s gross domestic product in manufacturing.

Via a survival regression model, he found that the variable appearing most prominently and exerting the strongest influence on survival was per capita research and development spending, which 43 states have as a higher priority than does Georgia.  Intellectual property, such as patent applications and published articles, also appeared significant to continuing operations.  Overall, companies engaging in innovation had much greater odds of survival than those that did not.

Given the prominence of R&D, Carley offered several recommendations, largely conducive to creating a favorable environment for R&D–among them: (1) financial incentives, such as restructuring the R&D tax credit; (2) recruiting R&D companies that could further develop Georgia’s R&D infrastructure; and (3) better identification of research carrying financial risk but scientific promise.

Rahul Jain, working on a dual master’s degree in city and regional planning and public policy, explored the adoption of green-building technologies in metro Atlanta and began development of Georgia’s first green-building database.

More than 38 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions are associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the built environment.  Green-building growth, he added, has resulted from demand for the cost efficiency and productivity that green features generate, as in areas of lighting, HVAC, water usage, and low emissions.  Indeed, governments and businesses both recognize the health and economic benefits of “going green,” he said.

His surveys, interviews, and data analysis identified location of green buildings and determined the features they contain.  Development of the green database reflects innovation on Georgia’s part and can help educate designers/builders.  It also will help attract buyers seeking green attributes, and green can be a tiebreaker in site location, according to Jain.  Recommendations covered diverse aspects.  One, create a stakeholder task force comprising engineers and architects.  Two, tap into American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to retrofit Georgia buildings.  Three, devise policies and incentives, such as ordinances and tax credits, to promote green features in the built environment.

A master’s student in Georgia Tech’s School of Economics, Shanshan Zou investigated foreign direct investment (FDI) in Georgia, including impact, trends, and opportunities.  Her research suggests that Georgia has comparative advantages in information and high-tech industries and that some rapidly emerging economies have strong ties here, which could create further possibilities for growth.

FDI in the United States, which creates jobs, increases exports, and incurs new research, totaled $2.3 million in 2008, with 71 percent coming from Europe, she noted.  Georgia ranks 11th nationally in employment (173,600) related to FDI and 18th in terms of capital value ($23.3 billion), close behind neighboring North Carolina.  The three developing economies with the greatest FDI potential for Georgia, she said, are China, Mexico, and India, all of which already have manufacturing and sales operations here.

She recommended that in addition to targeting high-tech industries and strengthening ties with growth leaders in developing countries that Georgia increase international awareness of the state’s FDI potential and focus on activities with the strongest potential for spillovers.

The intern selection committee comprised Dr. Cathryn Mitchell of Southeastern Technical College, Greg Torre of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Pat Sims from Georgia Power Company.  They picked the four interns from 19 applicants.?

Nano’s Numerous Roots and Branches

Nanotech covers the world of the very small, but there’s nothing miniscule about its myriad connections and rich context.

STIP faculty Jan Youtie and Alan Porter contributed an article in the September 2009 issue of Nature Nanotechnology in which they explored the highly multidisciplinary nature of nanoscience and nanotechnology and found considerable interconnectivity.  They analyzed abstracts from some 30,000 papers with nano themes published between January and July 2008.  These papers appeared in more than 6,000 journals and were found in 151 of the Science Citation Index’s 175 subject categories.  Materials sciences and chemistry dominated, but clinical medicine, biomedical sciences, physics, and other areas also contributed.  Assessing the field in this fashion could prove helpful for those who will manage the millions of dollars invested in it.

Read more about the article at http://gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/newsrelease/nano-multidisciplinary.htm.

In addition, STIP research associate and public policy doctoral student Vrishali Subramanian collaborated with Youtie, Porter, and STIP co-director Philip Shapira to publish “Is there a shift to ‘active nanostructures?,’” for the Journal of Nanoparticle Research.

Other STIP publishing on nanotech innovation this year includes six entries in the Encyclopedia of Nanotechnology; three chapters in the Yearbook of Nanotechnology and Society, volume 2, Equity and Equality; and a new paper on the use of nanotechnology environmental health and safety research by other researchers engaged in nanotechnology.

Sustainable High-Tech Clusters in Georgia

A recent study by STIP researchers Dan Breznitz, Ph.D., and doctoral student Mollie Taylor has revealed the missed potential of Georgia’s high-tech industry and suggests novel policy approaches to rectify it.  Based on this research, Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) has announced a new dual policy and research endeavor—the Sustainable High-Tech Cluster Initiative (SHTCI).  EI2’s Don Betts will be the executive director, with Breznitz serving as academic director and Taylor as lead researcher.

The initiative has four goals:

  1. Develop a set of policy options targeted at the societal structure of high-tech industry in Georgia, which, initial research indicates, has contributed to the industry’s relative stagnation in growth since 2000.
  2. Develop different data systems to enable on-time tracking and targeting of the lack of local embeddedness of Atlanta’s high-tech industry.
  3. Collaborate with industry and state-level stakeholders—such as the Technology Association of Georgia, the Georgia Research Alliance, the Atlanta Technology Angels, and Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center, among others—in the creation and sustainment of forums that would allow meaningful long-term interaction between: (a) technology startups, (b) startups and large technology companies, and (c) the technology industry in Atlanta and the rich community of successful major (Fortune 1,000) firms.
  4. Conduct leading-edge comparative research on high-tech entrepreneurship and cluster development to enable Atlanta to flourish and learn from the vast experience of other U.S. regions, as well as reinforce EI2/STIP as a locus of top-grade academic research on the subject.

Previous research by Breznitz and Taylor has consisted of both qualitative and quantitative analyses of Atlanta’s technology sector, including social networking analysis, interviews, and aggregate industry analysis.  Click here for a copy of the report.  The findings include:

  • Atlanta has all of the factors necessary for a technology company to start and grow: (1) the fifth largest concentration of Fortune 500 firms; (2) a large, educated, young labor market; (3) a diverse population; (4) substantial research universities; (5) high levels of venture capital financing; (6) amenities; and (7) historical good fortune of previous successful technology firms.
  • The number of large technology companies in Georgia has steadily declined since 2000.
  • The overall growth rates and relative importance of the high-tech industry to the state has stagnated.
  • Atlanta suffers from a paucity of technology firms going through an IPO, and currently has no home-grown independent technology company that is a leader in its market niche.
  • Furthermore, 40 percent of Atlanta’s high-tech startups leave the city through acquisition or relocation within three years of receiving substantial venture capital investment, a figure that rises above 60 percent within five years.
  • Little contact was revealed between technology firms, between technology companies and local Fortune 500 firms, or among executives of prominent technology enterprises.

The research phase of SHTCI starts in January 2010, while efforts to create “buzz” about the initiative and what it hopes to accomplish have already begun.  For more information about SHTCI, contact Don Betts ( 912.381.9003  912.381.9003 , don.betts@innovate.gatech.edu).