In the city of Atlanta, Georgia — the birthplace of one of the most recognizable beverage brands in the world — innovation is bubbling up everywhere. The city is home to Coca Cola’s recently-expanded KOlab facility and Chick-fil-A’s Hatch Innovation Center, where tasty new ideas are constantly being tested.
Much of Atlanta’s innovation scene is focused in Midtown, on the edge of the Georgia Tech campus, which houses roughly 30 different development, design, and innovation centers in Technology Square. Georgia Tech has partnered with big-name companies like Honeywell, Delta, and AT&T to explore the potential of new technologies and educate the next generation of innovators in a collaborative ecosystem. And twice a year, the university hosts the Capstone Expo, where student teams show off research projects they’ve been working on with corporate sponsors. The event fills a basketball arena, and several tents outside it.
Our team crafted a list of 20 key innovation hubs in Atlanta, and plotted them on a map. The list includes innovation centers run by large companies, key players in the accelerator space, and corporate venture capital funds. Many of the pins overlap in the Midtown area, so be sure to zoom in.
Aflac Ventures Fund
Aflac’s $250 million corporate venture capital fund has become an important part of the insurer’s innovation strategy. The Ventures Fund team keeps an eye on the startup world for strategic pieces of new technology. The program also includes Aflac Venture Labs, where startups can partner with the business units to run pilots. In a recent InnoLead piece, Bharat Rajaram, Managing Director at Aflac Ventures shares takeaways from the first year.
Anthem Innovation Studio
Opened in 2016, the insurance company’s innovation studio focuses on three pillars — “consumer experience, managing the cost of care, and provider collaboration,” according to a company press release. Some successes from the program include personalized video welcome messages for enrollees and mobile bill pay.
One of six locations around the world, Atlanta’s AT&T Foundry focuses on internet access solutions, smart cities, and emerging entertainment applications. The centers use rapid prototyping to accelerate the launch of new offerings. Customer feedback helps teams iterate on ideas.
Boeing Manufacturing Development Center
Located on Georgia Tech’s campus, this center focuses on experimental research and non-traditional uses of automation in the aviation industry, according to a company press release. The team’s first area of research was using robotics to automate precision machining.
With dedicated spaces to each part of the design thinking process, Hatch acts as a hub for innovation across Chick-fil-A. Their team often brings in customers to test full scale prototypes before rolling ideas out across franchises. One successful project: cook-it-yourself meal kits.
Coca-Cola’s recently expanded KOlab allows “customers [to] navigate the fast-moving shopping and dining landscape.” The space also has a digital immersion room where teams can build VR experiences that allow customers to visualize products in a store environment. (Coca-Cola teams based in Atlanta have also tackled an array of forward-leaning projects, including their Freestyle soda machines.)
ComcastNBC Universal’s The Farm
Housed in Comcast NBCUniversal’s Regional Headquarters, The Farm’s 12-week accelerator program works with startups across industries. Participants receive co-working space, access to the company’s hardware lab, and funding in exchange for 7 percent equity, according to the program website.
Cox Enterprises’ Innovation Suite
Run in partnership with Techstars, Cox Enterprises’ Innovation Suite recruits 10 promising startups for each class of its accelerator programs. According to the company website, more than 25 percent of companies in the program relocate to Atlanta. The first three classes have also raised over $40 million from investors.
Daimler AG’s Lab1886 has been in operation since 2007. The vehicle-maker, which owns brands like Mercedes Benz and Freightliner Trucks, uses the lab to explore trends in mobility. In addition to Atlanta, the lab has outposts in Germany, Beijing, and Silicon Valley. Susanne Hahn, Director of Lab1886 Global, explains how her team incentivizes participation.
Delta Hangar Innovation Lab
Located 10 miles away from the Atlanta airport, Delta’s The Hangar researches technology and design that could improve the travel experience. Projects from the innovation center include pre-select meal bots, drone lightning inspections for planes, and voice assistance that allow people to search for flights using Amazon Echo. Get an inside look.
Elavon Mobile Innovation Center, aka “The Grove”
The Grove, run by the payments provider Elavon, focuses on the future of mobile payments and deploying new technology in the field. One objective for the team: building different payment solutions for businesses of different sizes.
Emerson “The Helix” Innovation Center
At The Helix, customers and industry practitioners team up to generate ideas and create prototypes in a three month span. The Helix’s location at Georgia Tech is one of several innovation centers working on improving products from the engineering services company. Emerson’s other innovation centers sit in Austin, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Marshalltown, Iowa, and Prune, India.
Georgia Pacific Point A
Georgia Pacific’s Point A Center brings innovators from across the Atlanta ecosystem together to tackle challenges in the supply chain. Members of Point A can also run joint pilots to test their supply chain solutions. The team was incubated in Technology Square while the group’s 30,000 square-foot site was being developed at the company’s headquarters. Mary Kate Love, director of the program, explains how her team builds a collaborative environment.
The Home Depot Technology Center
Opened in 2015, Home Depot’s Technology Center works with students in Georgia Tech’s co-op program to test and develop new technologies. The center’s objectives include connecting with high-potential students, exploring retail technologies, and brainstorming with employees throughout the business. Learn more about the program.
Honeywell’s Connected Enterprise Center
The Honeywell Connected Enterprise unit works on software innovation, including IoT solutions, data analytics, and new business development. According to Business Insider, the company’s connected industrial software business has helped grow organic sales by 5 percent year over year.
Microsoft Innovation Center
In this outpost, Microsoft works with entrepreneurs to create apps, software, and new technology products. One goal is connecting the tech giant with entrepreneurs, kindergarten through 12th grade students, universities, and government agencies.
NCR Innovation Lab
NCR’s Innovation Lab seeks to help the company shift to a platform business model, according to the company’s chief technology officer. Focus areas include supporting the omni-channel experience, predictive analytics, and managing big data.
Southern Co. Energy Innovation Center
Southern Co. Energy Innovation Center seeks creative solutions in areas including electric battery storage, electric car technology, and big data, according to the company’s website. The center also oversees the SO Prize competition, during which teams submit nearly 1,000 new ideas to improve the customer experience. The Energy Innovation Center’s strategy is being revised and the space is being upgraded in 2020.
Siemens Data Analytics and Applications Center
Opened in 2017, this outpost from Siemens works with transportation providers to improve operations and safety through big data. For one initiative, the Siemens team partnered with the City of Atlanta to collect and analyze data from the city’s streetcars. The program also encourages participation from Georgia Tech students.
UCB Solution Accelerator
This accelerator program run by UCB creates a unique environment that fosters collaboration between the pharmaceutical company and Georgia Tech community. Focused on creating positive impact for people living with severe diseases, the accelerator incorporates the university’s machine learning and advanced analytics resources to improve patient care.