Georgia Tech Launches National Search for VP and Director of Enterprise Innovation Institute

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Georgia Tech will begin a national search for the position of vice president and director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) to replace Chris Downing, who has announced his retirement effective June 1, 2019. An interim vice president and director will be named for the position.

Downing, who has served Georgia Tech for 31 years, will leave behind a legacy of leadership in technology-based economic development, university outreach and technical assistance, entrepreneurship and start-up support.

“I feel very fortunate for such a diverse and challenging career and to have shared so many good years with the Georgia Tech family, and I am very appreciative of the many faculty, staff and students who have made my time at Georgia Tech so interesting and inspiring,” Downing said. “Although I am leaving my full-time duties, I look forward to staying connected to Georgia Tech and supporting its mission of progress and service.”

The Enterprise Innovation Institute is nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development. 

With state and federal support, for example, it operates a statewide network of assistance to Georgia manufacturers through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and supports startup companies through the Advanced Technology Development Center. Other EI2 programs help faculty members commercialize technology developed in Georgia Tech labs, serve minority businesses, support economic development activities, and provide a connection to Georgia Tech’s talent and resources. 

“The Enterprise Innovation Institute is critical component of Georgia Tech’s service to our state,” said Chaouki Abdallah, Georgia Tech’s executive vice president for research. “During his tenure, Chris has expanded our economic development initiatives and increased collaboration among these programs while more closely aligning them with the needs of the state, region and nation.”

Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson praised Downing’s long service to Georgia Tech and the state of Georgia.

“Chris has been a tireless champion and supporter of our economic development initiatives, working to maintain strong partnerships across the state while creating new collaborations,” Peterson said. “We appreciate his leadership role as Georgia Tech partners with the state to strengthen Georgia’s economy.”

After leaving IBM, where he was a mechanical facilities engineer, Downing joined Georgia Tech in 1988 as a senior research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

In 1996, he joined EI2 — then called the Economic Development Institute — as the Griffin regional office manager and provided industrial extension and economic development services to the south metro Atlanta region.

In 2005, he was tapped to lead the Industry Services group of the newly-organized Enterprise Innovation Institute. That role included several key outreach programs: the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Energy and Environmental Management Center, the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC), the Southeast Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), and the Georgia Tech Regional Office Network.

Downing was named EI2’s associate vice president in 2013 and vice president in 2016.
In that time, he spearheaded the three-fold expansion of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) and created the Venture Center space that has helped to attract Fortune 100 corporate innovation centers to Technology Square.

His technology-based economic development efforts helped Georgia Tech and the EI2 win the prestigious “2014 Innovation Award” from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the “2014 Outstanding Research Park Award” from the Association of Research Parks.

Most recently, Downing led the feasibility study for the expansion of Georgia Tech’s second research park, Technology Enterprise Park, into a broader life sciences and technology innovation district.

Downing is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering.

The national search process will be led by the EVPR office, which will also name the interim vice president and director by May 30, 2019.