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By Allyson Mann

The Offices of Research and STEM Education have partnered to host a one-day workshop, “Innovation at UGA, for all of UGA,” that will help chart the path to a more inclusive innovation ecosystem at UGA. Anyone interested in innovation, entrepreneurship and fostering an inclusive culture is encouraged to attend. The event will take place March 27 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries.

The university’s commitment to innovation has continued to grow in recent years. UGA ranked first among 193 U.S. institutions for the number of commercial products reaching the market in 2017, according to a survey released by the Association of University Technology Managers. The UGA I-Corps program, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, provides up to 30 teams a year with entrepreneurial training and funding for critical, early-stage customer-discovery work. Multiple colleges have added entrepreneurial education efforts, and the Innovation Gateway program provides many pathways and ample support for taking ideas to market.

Despite the vibrant culture of innovation at the university, there is still more work to be done, said Karen Burg, professor and Harbor Lights Chair in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“How do we make innovation part of the fundamental fabric of campus?” she asked. “Ideally, we would like it to be like oxygen—something we don’t think about because it’s a natural part of our environment.”

Thought leaders and practitioners will come together at the workshop to reflect on existing programs and help build a roadmap for increasing inclusivity and impact. The event will include expert speakers, panel discussions and interactive group discussion.

The morning keynote will be delivered by UGA alumnus Tosha Hays, chief product officer with Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Brrr! and former senior director at Spanx.

Additional featured speakers include Elizabeth Dougherty, senior advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary and Director at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where she contributed to the USPTO’s recent “Progress and Potential” report highlighting women entrepreneurship, and Rory Cooper, FISA and Paralyzed Veterans of America Professor and associate dean for inclusion in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.

Sessions will focus on topics like “Inspiring Innovation Stories” from a panel of successful, diverse entrepreneurs who will discuss lessons learned and overcoming challenges. “The Everyday Entrepreneur” will explore the importance of having a problem-solving mindset. And “Breaking Down Barriers” will be an interactive session focused on overcoming the challenges faced by three groups—undergraduates, graduate students and faculty.

“Innovation is at its best when diverse groups come together,” said Crystal Leach, director of industry collaborations at UGA, “and we need input from our community to build a truly inspirational environment where everyone feels welcome to join in the discussion.”

Registration (https://t.uga.edu/4LE) for the workshop is free, and lunch is included.

Additional support for this event was also provided by the President’s Office.