Chick-fil-A opens new innovation center

Photo by Samta Brahmbhatt

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, Tech and Chick-fil-A opened an Innovation Center satellite office in Tech Square.

“This new facility will provide a dedicated space for Chick-fil-A to collaborate with the bright minds of Georgia Tech and develop technology solutions that will benefit our customers,” said Mike Erbrick, Chick-fil-A’s chief information officer. “Our founder Truett Cathy was a true innovator, and the Technology Innovation Center is one of the ways we’re continuing his legacy.”

The space is not the first innovation center opening in Tech Square, but it is the first to be located in the recently acquired Biltmore. The 6,000-square-foot space will focus on digital technology, and is made for faculty and students to explore design, innovation and development

Innovation centers are not anything new to Chick-fil-A; this is the company’s fourth innovation center. Starting in 2012, Chick-fil-A has added a new innovation center every other year, each designed to focus on a different aspect of the business.

This new innovation center in Tech Square joins centers focused on restaurant design and customer experience, menu enhancements and urban expansion and food service design.

“This isn’t the first time that Georgia Tech has been in partnership with Chick-fil-A,” said Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson. “About this time a year ago, Chick-fil-A and nine other founding companies committed $1.5 million each toward the Engage accelerator program in Atlanta … Engage offers programming and other surfaces through a contract with Georgia Tech’s ATDC. Up to 48 startups could go through the program during the next
three years.”

Chick-fil-A now joins the “Innovation Ecosystem” that Tech has fostered in Tech square. The ecosystem is designed to draw from the Institute’s students, faculty and researchers to develop and transfer ideas and technology from labs to the marketplace.

Among the many things attracting companies to open these innovation centers in Tech Square is the ability to recruit Tech students, access to research and development resources and the ability to tap into the large number of startups that Tech students are connected with.

“The innovation ecosystem we have been able to create is unprecedented in Atlanta,” Peterson said. “And the opportunity for us to provide talented students and emerging technologies to contribute to this work is very exciting
for us.”

Peterson sees this relationship as a symbiotic one, where both parties will benefit from the others’ presence.

“Engage will give Chick-fil-A the ability to mentor and potentially work with some high-potential startups, build relationships in the startup world, and develop Atlanta’s innovation ecosystem – it’s a win for everyone involved, and ultimately, Chick-fil-A customers,” he said.

The Technology Innovation Center will operate on a semester basis, but will not be limited to Tech students.

“Of course, for Georgia Tech, it’s about our students,” Peterson said. Eight Tech students are working in the Chick-fil-A Technology Innovation center.