Chris Downing, who has led the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development efforts as vice president and director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), is retiring after 31 years of service.
Downing, who has led EI2 since 2016, leaves behind a decades-long legacy of leadership experience at Georgia Tech in technology-based economic development, university outreach and technical assistance, entrepreneurship and start-up support, and program management.
His retirement is effective June 1, 2019.
“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.”
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 (EDI) — as the Griffin regional office manager and provided industrial extension and economic development services to the south metro Atlanta region.
Two years later, he was named group manager of technology services for the Economic Development Institute, where he was charged with overall management of technology deployment and information technology services to more than 200 EDI staff and associates located both on campus and in 12 regional offices across the state. In addition, this group provided technical research services for EDI clients in industry, business, and community economic development organizations.
In 2005, he was tapped to lead EI2’s Industry Services group, which included several key outreach programs: the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), 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 several 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.
“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,” said Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson. “We appreciate his leadership role as Georgia Tech partners with the state to strengthen Georgia’s economy.”
Downing is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering.