Today's startups for tomorrow's economy

GRA accelerates the launch and growth of university enterprises

GRA’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program helps Georgia’s universities move more discoveries out of the lab and into the world.

We do this by providing crucial early-stage investment and advice to help researchers shape startup companies around their inventions. (The most promising of these companies often receive added investment from GRA Venture Fund, a public-private investment fund.)

Created in 2003, GRA’s I&E program:

Attracts huge outside investment to university startups. Through GRA’s selective investment and guidance, projects and companies have attracted over $2.3 billion in equity investment, most of it from out of state. More about the startups >

Creates new workforce opportunities. Many of the jobs and contracting opportunities generated by the startups are highly skilled positions in life science and technology businesses. The startups not only employ Georgians – they also provide valuable experience that promotes mobility to other companies. They're also resilient: 87% are still in business after four years (double the national average of 44%).

Returns dollars directly to the tax digests. Georgia’s investment through GRA generates a recurring annual stream of state and local revenue. Because the influx of venture capital and the growth of company revenues yield state and local revenue from payroll, sales, property and income taxes.

Accelerates help for Georgia farmers and food producers. In 2020, GRA launched Greater Yield, an accelerator to support ag tech in Georgia, a crucial but underserved industry segment. GRA has helped shape ag tech companies around 14 projects. Beyond investment, GRA’s accelerator provides farmers and food producers with face-to-face time with mentors.

Elevates Georgia’s national profile. The GRA I&E story is a compelling part of the state’s economic development narrative, and GRA’s programs have strengthened bonds within the larger innovation community.

Promotes entrepreneurship on campuses. In the early 2000s, Georgia’s research universities sparked few startup companies. Today, research faculty have a clearer blueprint – and guiding hand – for launching a business around an invention. GRA has been instrumental in changing that culture over the years.

Forges new connections between industry and universities. GRA is not a passive investor; we constantly look for and fill gaps in the university entrepreneurship and tech transfer ecosystem. The counsel and guidance provided by GRA’s corps of senior advisors often opens doors for the leaders of young companies, connecting them with venture capital sources, prospective customers and other market advisors.

How the program works

GRA’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program is both proactive and responsive.

We first help universities spot the opportunity – i.e., identify discoveries and inventions that have market potential.

We then invite researchers to apply for funding support:

  • GRA provides preliminary Phase 1 grants (up to $50K) at the earliest stages of technology development — often before the official disclosure of the invention to the university.
  • GRA also provides Phase II grants (up to $100k) to spur the formation of companies. These grants require a dollar-for-dollar match from a commercially relevant entity or granting agency.
  • GRA provides Phase 3 low-interest loans to qualified companies in Georgia, which are repaid to a pool of funds that supports new loans.
  • GRA Venture Fund, LLC provides early-stage direct investment capital to qualified companies. The Fund includes 64 private investors, and every dollar invested by the state is matched at least 3:1 on every direct investment.

    In addition, GRA provides invaluable counsel to university researchers. Our network of universities/colleges and external industry advisors has opened up access to many attractive investment opportunities in the state.
  • Every college and university in Georgia is eligible to receive I&E services and funding from GRA. Campus tech transfer offices partner with GRA to identify opportunities; university foundations, alumni, angel investors and industry advisors partner with GRA to provide early capital and mentoring for projects that may become startups.
  • More than 260 industry and external advisors help GRA evaluate and monitor progress on all funding opportunities – grants, loans, and equity investments. They also identify potential startup opportunities across the state. 

How to work with GRA

If you’re an enterprising researcher at any accredited public or private university in Georgia, you qualify for investment and counsel from GRA’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program.

GRA awards Phase 1 grants up to $50,000 to help you advance a research project toward the marketplace.

These grants are awarded in two installments (1A and 1B) based on milestones reached. You do not need to have an incorporated company to apply for Phase 1 grants.

Activities undertaken in Phase I typically include:

  • verifying the need for your proposed technology or product
  • confirming the performance of your technology or product (through technical assessment or studies)
  • investigating intellectual property for your project
  • assessing regulatory and reimbursement strategies, as appropriate. 

Later, you may be eligible to apply for a Phase 2 commercialization grant from GRA and a Phase 3 loan to the newly formed startup company.

Before applying for a Phase 1 grant, we ask that you complete a pre-proposal application. This is to help organize your plans – and for some universities, connect you with internal guidance – before completing a full Phase 1 application. Download the pre-application >

Please note that funds invested by GRA carry some restrictions about how they can be used. Learn more >

Researchers at GRA member universities: If you’re seeking to commercialize a discovery or invention, you must first contact the university representative on your campus (see list below).

University Representatives

Michael Moore, Ph.D.

Patrick Reynolds

Joanne Mitchell

Roberto Casas

James W. Lillard, Ph.D., M.B.A.

Ian Biggs

If you’re with another accredited university in Georgia and have questions about GRA’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program, please contact Justin Burns.

Note: GRA does not provide indirect funding for Innovation & Entrepreneurship grants awarded to the universities.