The academic, research and economic partnership between Emory and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) serves as a national blueprint for collaboration between a private and a public research university. 

Both Georgia Tech and Emory are members of the invitation-only Association of American Universities (AAU), which comprises 62 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada who are on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship and solutions that contribute to the nation’s economy, security and well-being, according to the AAU website.

Atlanta is one of nine U.S. metro areas with two AAU schools and serves as a model of a new efficiency in higher education that calls for schools to focus on their core strengths while collaborating with complementary institutions to maximize resources and expertise, according to the Georgia Tech Partnership website.

Only a short six-mile shuttle ride separates the two campuses, brought together by a biomedical engineering seed grant program in 1987 that grew into the creation of the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, now ranked No. 2 in the country for biomedical engineering, according to a Nov. 6 Emory Magazine article.

Since then, the partnership has expanded to include several breakthrough discoveries and research in areas ranging from predictive health to gerontology, according to a Nov. 13 University press release.

In a recent conversation with University President James W. Wagner in a University video interview, Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson explained his take on the success of the partnership.

“When people ask me what makes this partnership successful, the response I typically give is that we compete in almost nothing,” Peterson said. “We have different pedagogical interests and different types of institutions and that, I think, is a real strength.”

Wagner agreed with Peterson in an interview with the Wheel, citing “complementarity” as a foundation.

“With Georgia Tech, we seek to provide partnerships where one plus one is greater than two,” Wagner said. “We consider only partnership areas in which there is an expectation that the combination will produce excellence and impact that is greater than merely the sum of the existing efforts.”

Wagner also pointed out the financial impact of the Emory-Georgia Tech partnership.

Emory and Georgia Tech are members of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), an organization that aims to expand government funding to Georgia universities to launch new companies, create high-value jobs and transform lives, according to the GRA website.

“The partnership between Emory and Georgia Tech has been greatly facilitated by the GRA, because it provides a common pool of resources on which we can draw to help build the partnership,” Peterson said.

The institutions combined to receive more than $500 million in research funding and together spent nearly $1.25 billion on scientific research in the last year.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the schools, Emory provides a direct economic impact in the region of $5.1 billion and Georgia Tech $3 billion, according to the Georgia Tech partnership website.

In addition to the $8 billion impact on the Georgia economy, the two schools support about 50,000 jobs and have launched more than 100,000 alumni into the Georgia workforce, according to University statistics.

Wagner said he sees this as another example of the intersection between natural and social sciences with the arts and humanities.

“[The intersection] occurs in two places: in the common disciplines of the mind and in the common intent to pursue all of the arts and sciences in the service of humanity,” Wagner said.

Both presidents are confident in the momentum of the Emory-Georgia Tech partnership heading into the future, and that the two schools will only grow closer and better.

“One of the delightful things that has happened over the years is a sense of trust and possibility,” Wagner said. “I look forward to and imagine a number of new kinds of engagements through all of our schools.”

By Stephen Fowler

Learn more about the Emory-Georgia Tech partnership here