A novel way to grow Georgia's economy

Georgia’s universities do much more than produce an educated workforce. Their research programs are also engines of economic growth.

The Georgia Research Alliance makes these engines run faster – and go further.

GRA expands research capacity at universities, then seeds and shapes startup companies around inventions and discoveries. More on how we do that >

GRA's three core programs are not buckets — more like three parts of a continuum:

GRA Eminent Scholars represent the superstar scientists we help universities recruit to our state. Each Scholar occupies an endowed chair, and the university raises private funds to match GRA's investment in the chair. GRA also makes key investments in the labs of these Scholars, so that they're able to attract more Federal and private research dollars (currently around $530 million annually).

The start-up companies that GRA helps to launch out of university labs are the product of scientific invention and discovery. GRA's venture development program seeds these companies with investment at a very early-stage, then provides executive guidance to help give startups the best chance of succeeding in the marketplace.

GRA Venture Fund, LLC is a separate enterprise that provides more investment and guidance for the most promising startups. This unique public-private investment fund is one of the largest venture capital funds in Georgia. Currently, a dozen or so companies are developing in the GRA Venture Fund portfolio.

WHY WE’RE NEEDED

Georgia’s economy grows from:

  1. Recruiting new companies to our state
  2. Helping current companies expand
  3. Propelling the launch of new companies

It’s this third way – launching companies – where GRA fills a crucial gap.

Historically, universities have been an overlooked driver of entrepreneurship, despite having enterprising scientists who push the boundaries of discovery. Talented researchers are typically focused on advancing knowledge and solving problems. By helping universities form companies around inventions, GRA works to move innovation from lab to life.

MORE ON GRA

GRA is an independent nonprofit (501c3) organization that works in partnership with both the University System of Georgia and Georgia’s Department of Economic Development.

Our partner universities include:

Our board represents a unique alliance of top leaders from industry, academia and government – all of whom recognize the importance of an entrepreneurial economic development strategy.

GRA’s impact transcends economic growth: The Alliance has played a key role in building a reputation for Georgia as a center of discovery and invention, and GRA has captured several national awards for its impact.

Because of GRA’s investment and involvement, science and technology breakthroughs continue to emerge from Georgia’s universities.

HOW WE GOT HERE

GRA’s beginnings can be traced west to Austin, Texas.

In 1983, the State of Georgia failed to win a headquarters bid for a large industry consortium seeking a place to develop the next generation of semiconductor technology. The consortium – Microelectronics Computer and Technology Corporation – was located in Austin, where it jump-started the city’s fledgling tech industry and established a high-tech hub.

The critical factor in Austin’s win was a public-private partnership that combined government resources and private sector energy and creativity. Georgia quickly realized the benefits of having a privately run technology alliance that could leverage state dollars to expand university research capacity.

In 1990, a group of Georgia leaders established the nonprofit Georgia Research Alliance to help business, research universities and state government collaborate to build a technology-driven economy fueled by breakthrough university research. The late Lawrence L. Gellerstedt, Jr. – who had chaired the Georgia Research Consortium, the state’s 1980s-era attempt at a technology authority – was named chair of GRA.

The plan was to attract some of the world’s most brilliant scientists to establish new programs of research and development at affiliated Georgia research universities. The focus would be in areas with the most potential for generating new companies and creating new science and technology jobs.

The cadre of scientists, named GRA Eminent Scholars®, would:

  • compete successfully for a larger share of federal and foundation research funds
     
  • attract other talented scientists and graduate students to Georgia 
     
  • foster new companies and create relationships with industry to commercialize technologies developed through research

Today, GRA is an internationally acclaimed model for unifying business, research universities, and state government to create and sustain a vibrant, technology-rich economy for the state.

One of GRA’s most important accomplishments has been unifying the state’s research institutions to foster cross-university research, which is often critical when competing for federal research funding. Presidents of each university sit on GRA’s board, along with prominent leaders in government and industry.

Download a timeline of GRA's history >

Download GRA’s overview brochure >