Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute is offering free office space in Atlanta for up to 10 Puerto Rican companies to temporarily set up shop here as the island recovers from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
The companies will do business from prime space at the heart of Atlanta’s tech ecosystem in Midtown — about 2,000 square feet at 75 5th St., in some cases a few floors above or below major corporate innovation centers set up there in recent years. Up to 20 people, two per company, can avail themselves of the space for four months starting now.
It’s one way that EI2 is extending recovery assistance to its longtime Puerto Rican partners, which have used the Georgia Tech institute’s services for many years.
Beyond handling the ever-popular Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps Georgia companies design their factory floors, EI2 is the hub for a variety of initiatives at Georgia Tech, with about 200 people staffing various programs and organizations.
It’s the umbrella organization over VentureLab, which helps commercialize innovations coming out of Tech, as well as the oldest incubator in the state, the Advanced Technology Development Center.
But the organization also consults for governments, communities, foundations and other stakeholders looking to foster innovation-led economic development.
That’s handled by EI2’s Economic Development Lab, which has been active in Latin America, helping stakeholders weave together their business, university and technology ecosystems to boost competitiveness.
“One of the most critical needs for entrepreneurs on the island is space and reliable access to energy and telecommunications. By temporarily relocating here, they can continue operations while the situation improves in Puerto Rico,” said David Bridges, director of the Economic Development Lab, in a news release. “By working in Tech Square, they will have the opportunity to interact with our ecosystem and network, which could lead to potential new business opportunities.”
A major Puerto Rican delegation of business and government leaders visited the lab at in late November, just two months after the category five storm slammed the island. The alliance, Echar Pa’Lante (Move Forward), includes representatives from the University of Puerto Rico and Banco Popular, as well as the government’s innovation leaders.
“We have so many connections in Puerto Rico that we really care about them,” said Ernesto Escobar, a program manager at EI2 who works on Latin American Initiatives. “Some of them still didn’t have electricity in their homes, but they came here.”
It made sense given the long-standing partnership between the Economic Development Lab and Puerto Rico, which has enjoyed some $9 million worth of initiatives and funding through its Georgia Tech connection.
One current effort, nicknamed the “Block Project,” is aimed at helping participating universities spur entrepreneurial activity around their campuses. This follows up on a 2015 training of 800 Puerto Rican professors on “evidence-based entrepreneurship,” according to the release.
Georgia Tech graduated 20 students from Puerto Rico in 2016, and 63 are currently enrolled. More information on the Tech partnership with the island can be found here.
Companies interested in applying for the office space can do so here: https://goo.gl/N3Rst8