Karen Fite, who, for the past 18 months has led the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development efforts as interim vice president and director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), has retired after more than 27 years of service.
David Bridges, director of EI2’s Economic Development Lab (EDL), will assume the interim vice president role effective Jan. 1, 2021.
EI2 is the largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development in the United States.
Prior to leading EI2, Fite ran the unit’s Business & Industry Services group of programs, comprised of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), EI2’s largest economic development offering. The group also includes the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES), Atlanta MBDA Centers, Contracting Education Academy, Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC), and the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) programs.
Before taking on that role, Fite was GaMEP director.
“Over the years at Georgia Tech, I have been privileged to serve in a wide variety of capacities — assisting companies with government procurement, their implementation of quality management systems and Lean Manufacturing protocols, the launch of a Lean Healthcare initiative, creating community economic development research and strategic plans, and directing the GaMEP,” Fite said.
“As interim vice president, I have had the opportunity to interact with virtually every EI2 employee. Working with such a talented group of employees of EI2 has been an honor because across the board they are passionate about their work, dedicated to Georgia Tech’s mission of progress and service by serving clients, and continually looking to innovate, improve, and expand our services to help create long lasting and meaningful impact not only in Georgia and across the country, but around the world.”
Chaouki T. Abdallah, Georgia Tech’s executive vice president for research said Fite was a valued member of his leadership team.
“She has been a very effective and engaging leader,” Abdallah said. “She’s brought me solutions, given me critical feedback and has been an invaluable partner. Georgia Tech is lucky to have had her contributions for so long.”
Fite has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami and a bachelor’s in health systems from Georgia Tech. In 2018, she achieved the faculty rank of principal extension professional, Georgia Tech’s highest professional extension faculty rank.
“We are fortunate to have someone of David Bridges’ caliber who can not only build on Karen’s legacy but also brings a wealth of experience and economic development successes,” Abdallah said.
Bridges, who joined EI2 in 1994, authored, co-authored or contributed to more than 100 economic development grants totaling more than $40 million. He assisted in the formation of the two proof-of-concept units — the Global Center for Medical Innovation, a Tech affiliate in the medical device space, and I3L, a health information technology innovation hub.
Beyond Georgia, Bridges helped catalyze the development of the Soft Landings program to bring companies from overseas to the United States. He also helped to establish the I-Corps Puerto Rico program as the National Science Foundation’s first I-Corps program ever offered to teams from that community.
He also supported the expansion of technology extension programs in Chile and Colombia, built a new program in professional development around innovation and technology commercialization, and expanded Georgia Tech’s presence by helping to build startup ecosystems around the Institute’s international campuses and in Latin America.
Bridges and his EDL team have also implemented ecosystem building projects for numerous countries including Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Argentina, Guatemala, South Africa, China, Korea, and Japan.