Rowen Establishes “Living Labs” for Georgia

By Staff Writer Atlanta Trend
  • Apr 29, 2024

The Rowen Foundation’s 2,000 acres sit squarely between many of Georgia’s public and private universities and technical colleges. Now, thanks to a unique agreement, those institutions are able to utilize the site for their research and educational needs. 
Rowen recently signed “living laboratory agreements” with the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia that will allow it to activate its site and create new research and collaboration opportunities with its academic and industry partners. 


Two projects are already in the works: one addressing Georgia workforce needs in critical industries and another involving Georgia’s e-mobility network.  


“Since Rowen was established in 2020, we have said that our real estate is a platform for collaboration and innovation, and that is exactly what these agreements foster,” said Rowen President and CEO Mason Ailstock. “Allowing our academic and industry partners to utilize the land as we continue to build our infrastructure and plan for vertical development is an exceptional use of our resources that advances the mission of our private- and public-sector partners.” 


The first project involves the University of Georgia, Georgia Gwinnett College and Gwinnett Technical College.  The goal is to create collaborative academic programs that meet workforce needs in the growing electric mobility, energy and infrastructure industries for the state of Georgia. These programs will leverage the unique location of the site and vision to establish a new workforce hub for the state with capacity to hold over 100,000 jobs at full buildout. Work includes an audit of existing programs in areas relevant to the electric mobility industry to enhance Georgia’s workforce. The team will also engage with existing Georgia industry leaders to assess both the immediate and future workforce needs of their organizations and whether current programming is addressing known and anticipated skills gaps and make recommendations on new learning pathways that align with the workforce development needs of the electric mobility industry, according to Ailstock.  


Lead faculty include Donald Leo, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia, Gwinnett Technical College Vice President of Academic Affairs Rebecca Alexander, and Chavonda Mills, dean of the School of Science and Technology at Georgia Gwinnett College.  


The second living lab program involves UGA’s Georgia Network for Electric Mobility, in which Rowen will partner with the network in strengthening the innovation ecosystem of the region through enhanced coordination among business, higher education, government, and non-profits. The network of partners recognize the need to establish a safe and green “Living Lab” that will serve as a showcase for innovation and experimentation. Specific activities could include autonomous mobility; infrastructure to support autonomous mobility; environmental and agricultural stewardship; workforce development and upskilling; autonomous vehicles and in-road charging; and demonstration of smart city technologies. 


An important part of this program is Rowen’s participation in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Engine Grant, a multistate public-private initiative focused on user-inspired research, innovation and workforce development in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.  


“At the University of Georgia, we pride ourselves on fostering collaboration among institutions and industry,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at UGA and a Rowen board member. “We are pleased to support Rowen, our students, the state of Georgia and our partners in higher education by serving as the contracting institution for these projects.”