Georgia – A Growing Tech Hub for AI

David Nuckolls

Monday, April 26th, 2021

In the State of Georgia, innovation is not just a talking point, but rather an integrated element of our economic development story. When there’s the need to embrace new technologies, such as one of the most prevalent, in artificial intelligence, Georgia provides the right ecosystem for companies to develop, grow, adapt, and be successful. 

At the Georgia Center of Innovation, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, it’s our mission to work with businesses throughout the state to help them clear the path for innovation and find easier ways to embrace new technologies. Through our focus in many of the state’s strategic industries – aerospace and defense, agricultural technology, energy technology, information technology, logistics, and manufacturing – we’re able to understand the resources found within the state and then use our industry expertise to create meaningful connections that enable growth.  

This is especially true with disruptive technologies and their potential impact on the industry. Perhaps one technology with broad industry implications discussed most is artificial intelligence and machine learning. From retail, health care, manufacturing, logistics and supply chain, and many other industries, the growing presence of AI and machine learning will continue to provide opportunities for companies to innovate. 

Georgia is well positioned for this shift in industry due to its growing nature as a regional and national tech hub. By various metrics, our state continues to rank top tier in many elements related to innovation, and we continue to look inward through new initiatives like the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation. This Partnership is meant to ensure that innovation is available to everyone throughout the state, no matter their zip code or size of community. In fact, as recently as 2020, Atlanta was named the No. 1 Tech Hub by Business Facilities magazine.

Georgia’s emergence as a Tech Hub began a little more than a decade ago when Georgia Tech made the first jump across the interstate to build what is now known as Tech Square. This unique place is home to more than 30 Corporate Innovation Centers including corporate titans like Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot, AT&T, and Honeywell. Tech Square also provides access to top talent in the metro Atlanta area including schools like Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Emory University, and the Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCUs) schools found within Atlanta’s University Center. In addition to talent and corporate engagements, top research facilities and data centers continue to enable new innovations. The convergence of all of these right elements has led many corporations including NCR, Anthem, and Norfolk Southern to also co-locate in the same area.

It’s not just the growth of Tech Square that has made the state a successful hub. Through communities like Savannah, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Athens, Georgia is seeing innovative communities take on their own flavor and help generate cutting-edge opportunities in all parts of the state. With tremendous strengths including the nation’s fastest growing seaport in the Port of Savannah, the nation’s No. 1 research licensing university in the University of Georgia, the home of Army Cyber Command and state-invested Georgia Cyber Center, and growing software innovation assets in Middle Georgia, the state’s innovation and technology offerings are uniquely complete. 

Perhaps the best testament to the state’s success is the number of companies that have reached more than $1 billion in total valuation. From 2015-2019, Georgia had four companies reach this status. However, in just six months of 2020, four additional companies that call the state home reached this momentous milestone. The fact that these companies – Greenlight, SalesLoft, Calendly, and Bakkt – have all reached this unicorn status in a short time shows the tremendous tech hub that both the City of Atlanta and State of Georgia have become. 

This economic might extends beyond individual companies as the state continues to set records even during a year ravaged by a global pandemic. In the first six months of our current fiscal year (July – December 2020), project locations and expansions in Georgia created 16,000 new jobs in every corner of the state and nearly $6 billion in new investment – both records. Setting records during a pandemic isn’t easy, but it speaks to the momentum the state has been working toward over the last decade and the results of those efforts. 

To prepare for the future, Georgia’s level of talent development is almost unmatched, and it’s one of the reasons that companies will not only be able to embrace technologies like artificial intelligence more easily, but prepare long-term capacity to fill these jobs of the future. 

This begins in the K-12 education system where the Georgia Department of Education has made a commitment to preparing students for 21st Century workplace careers by providing high quality education opportunities in STEAM Fields. Beyond K-12, the state continues to see high levels of talent being generated at the state’s colleges and universities. 

This level of talent is what led companies like Microsoft to open a major presence in the state. It’s also what has led other companies like Apple and the Southern Company to each invest $25 million and launch the Propel Center, a facility located within the Atlanta University Center, which will create a tech hub for HBCUs. Georgia’s college and university systems, along with our connections with Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state, offer countless opportunities to young talent. By the numbers, Georgia’s colleges and universities award more than 2,400 IT bachelor’s degrees annually. 

The work doesn’t just stop with talent. Georgia is a leading research state and has taken a leadership position in licensing developed technology. As an example, the University of Georgia’s Innovation Gateway was recently named No. 1 again for the number of products developed by industry partners based on UGA research discoveries. This marked the seventh consecutive year UGA has placed among the top five schools in the country for this metric. 
Georgia’s diverse industry base provides ample opportunities for growth and embracement of new technologies like artificial intelligence. From retail, to health care, to financial technology, aerospace, and logistics, Georgia is home to many players in these sectors who stand to gain from the resources and robust ecosystem developed here. 

Leading the way is the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Machine Learning, an interdisciplinary research center, which now includes more than 190 affiliated faculty and 60 Ph.D. students. The Center has areas of expertise in more than 16 areas, ranging from industries like robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things, bioinformatics, logistics and manufacturing, and information security. This comprehensive center is already doing leading research to support industry embracing this technology. In addition, Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines creates new and exciting opportunities for the next generation of robotics experts, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. 

Major corporations continue to implement artificial intelligence into their operations to better serve their customers, improve their operations, and streamline efficiencies. Through programs like the state’s Advanced Technology Development Center, startup companies continue to develop new artificial intelligence solutions that can be integrated in some of the state’s most robust industries like aerospace, FinTech, logistics, and manufacturing. 

Georgia is a state where technologies like artificial intelligence can be advanced. Through the state’s strong tech hub, ample supply of technology talent, and abundance of resources like the Georgia Center of Innovation that ensure company successes, the state will be a leader in advanced technologies for years to come.