Building an Innovation Hub

A case study of the transformation of university roles in regional technological and economic development

Universities have assumed an expanded role in science and technology-based economic development that has become of interest to catch-up regions as well as to leading innovation locales.

This paper examines how the role of the university has evolved from performing conventional research and education functions to serving as an innovation-promoting knowledge hub through the case of Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). This case is discussed in the context of state efforts to shift the region from an agricultural to an industrial to an innovation-driven economy. Central to the transformation of Georgia Tech as a knowledge hub is the emergence of new institutional leadership, programs, organizational forms and boundary-spanning roles that meditate among academic, educational, entrepreneurial, venture capital, industrial, and public spheres.

Comparisons between Georgia Tech’s experiences and those of university roles in selected other catch-up regions in the southern United States highlight the importance to the case of networked approaches, capacity building, technology-based entrepreneurial development, and local innovation system leadership. Insights on the transformation of universities and the challenges of fostering a similar transformation in regional economies are offered.