GTRI Strategic Plan 2020-2030

GTRI Strategic Plan 2020-2030



GTRI Community,

I am pleased to share the strategic plan for Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). This plan embraces, builds on, and enhances our success and culture by articulating goals and identifying intentional actions toward achieving our 2030 vision where our people are the foremost innovators creating a secure nation, a prosperous Georgia, and a sustainable world. Over the last year, we asked questions, listened, collected data, formed working groups, and put the pen of our strategy creation in the collaborative hands of our grassroots population and GTRI leadership. This strategic plan, created by GTRI’s talented people, is what propels us toward this vision.

GTRI’s top priority is our people. We are committed to developing our staff, students, and research faculty as thought leaders. Our values are the guide stars for how our people define our culture by their actions, behaviors, and decisions. Our core values were identified from the appreciative inquiry phase during the early days of our Georgia Tech and GTRI strategy development. They represent the collective values and beliefs of the whole Georgia Tech community and describe us at our best and how we want to be perceived. Our values are to strive for excellence, thrive on diversity, celebrate collaboration, champion innovation, safeguard freedom of inquiry and expression, nurture the well-being of our community, act ethically, and be responsible stewards.

While it is necessary to understand and live out our shared values, simply doing so is not sufficient to develop and realize a strategic plan. We must also have a clear understanding of our mission. In 1995, GTRI became a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC). A UARC is a nonprofit organization chartered to maintain essential research, development, and engineering “core” capabilities; maintain long-term strategic relationships with their sponsors; and operate in the public interest, free from real or perceived conflicts of interest. Collaboration with the educational and research resources available at their universities enhances each UARC’s ability to meet their sponsors’ needs.

GTRI’s tight integration with the whole of Georgia Tech is core to who we are and a strategic differentiator. GTRI’s reason for existing, our mission, is four-fold: We exist to enhance State of Georgia economic development, serve national security, improve the human condition, and educate future technology leaders.

With our values and mission defined, we must also understand what has made us great and what challenges we face. Our grassroots culture; close trust with our sponsors; and dedication to integrity, excellence, and innovation have brought us to where we are today and are deeply ingrained in our culture. These must remain guiding principles in the future. We have cultivated a unique set of core competencies that differentiate us from our peers and have defined who we are; these competencies must be enhanced and leveraged. Our success and uniqueness have unearthed a set of challenges that must be addressed in the strategic plan.

GTRI historic images
Images from the GTRI historical archive at

Core challenges include:

  • Expanding our workforce and modifying our processes and structure to accommodate growth and GTRI’s speed of business;
  • Ensuring our people are valued, rewarded, and empowered; and
  • Ensuring we have a diverse workforce with a shared sense of belonging and appreciation.

For our four mission areas we have defined strategic goals to move us toward our vision. In addition, we have identified five cross-cutting strategic themes: Agility, Diversity, Impact, Innovation, and People-First. These themes are critical to enabling us to reach our mission area goals.

We aim to improve agility in our research, operations, and governance. The exponential rate of technology development combined with the global, ubiquitous availability of the latest technology requires a new appreciation for volume and timeliness to provide value to our sponsors.

We strive to cultivate a diverse workforce and workplace focused on equity and inclusive principles to become a community where all feel valued and a sense of belonging.

We know our value is measured by our positive impact on the City of Atlanta, State of Georgia, and the United States. As a world-class technology developer and solution provider, we will solve the critical and complex challenges for national security, enable Georgia to be a technology capital of the East Coast, and improve the human condition through leveraging our competencies — all while developing a pipeline of technology innovators and leaders.

GTRI historic images

To build a culture of thought leadership, intellectual curiosity, and inclusive innovation, we will champion innovation initiatives, diverse idea exploration, and continual learning across GTRI. We aspire to inform the decision-making across all the communities GTRI serves.

Finally, we aim to be a people-first organization — to solidify GTRI as a renowned research institute composed of top talent. We will focus on recruiting top talent, providing professional development and training for all employees, engaging at all levels, and committing to an employee work experience that exceeds expectations.

I want to thank the many voices who created this strategy. The highly interactive creation process engaged more than 1,000 of our people and external stakeholders. The mission statement, vision, values, goals, objectives, and intentional actions were developed by a diverse cross section of our employees, including staff, students, researchers, and leadership at all levels. This letter is merely a glimpse into our plan. It is your strategy, developed by the whole of GTRI. It is a living document and will be reviewed annually. There are many actions to accomplish over the next decade, and we will need your participation and leadership to succeed in reaching our future state and achieving our vision.

Very Respectfully,

jim signature

James Hudgens
Director, Georgia Tech Research Institute
Senior Vice President, Georgia Institute of Technology



OUR VISION - Our people are the foremost innovators creating a secure nation, a prosperous Georgia, and a sustainable world.

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Our people are the foremost innovators creating a secure nation, a prosperous Georgia, and a sustainable world.

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GTRI’s top priority is our people. We are committed to developing our staff, students, and research faculty as thought leaders. We measure our success by the impact our people have in our mission areas.

A thought leader is one whose views on a subject are respected and influential. They have a positive reputation for helping others with their knowledge and insight, and establish rich, meaningful relationships with those they are trying to reach. Everyone at GTRI has the potential to be a thought leader, whether they enable our missions by being a thought leader in finance, IT, security, or operations; work within a team to deliver on a project; or work directly with our sponsors. Our people are our core, our differentiator, and our secret weapon. Prioritizing our people will ensure our strategic success.


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We celebrate collaboration.
We enable and celebrate collaboration across disciplines and perspectives, between units and laboratories, and with other organizations at home and around the world. We value the contributions of all members of our community, promote civil and respectful discourse, and help one another succeed.

We thrive on diversity.
We see diversity of backgrounds and perspectives as essential to learning, discovery, and creation. We strive to remove barriers of access and to build an inclusive community where people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to learn and contribute to our mission.

We act ethically.
We hold one another to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct. We are transparent and accountable and strive to earn and maintain the public trust.

We strive for excellence.
We strive to be among the best at what we do and set high expectations for each of us individually and for our community as a whole. The expectation of excellence, which is instrumental in our ability to have a meaningful impact in the world, extends to our teaching, our research and creative endeavors, our outreach programs, and our operations.

We safeguard freedom of inquiry and expression.
We protect the freedom of all members of our community to ask questions, seek truth, and express their views. We cherish diversity of ideas as necessary conditions for learning, discovery, scholarship, and creativity.

We champion innovation.
We inspire, empower, and provide the resources and environment for innovative ideas to flourish. We welcome new concepts and approaches that lead to creative ideas and solutions.

We are responsible stewards.
We are careful stewards of the resources we are entrusted with and strive to be an example of sustainability, efficiency, respect, and responsibility.

We nurture the well-being of our community.
We strive to build a healthy and vibrant environment that helps every member of our community to grow holistically and develop the self-awareness, knowledge, and practices necessary to pursue healthy, purposeful, and fulfilling lives.


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As a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is the nonprofit, applied research unit of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). GTRI leverages the science and engineering base of Georgia Tech to enhance the impact of our collective research output. Collaboratively, we advance technology and provide innovative solutions to:

• Enhance economic impact for the State of Georgia.
• Serve national security.
• Improve the human condition.
• Educate future technology leaders.

Enhance Economic Impact for the State of Georgia

GTRI was chartered in 1934 by the State of Georgia as the Engineering Experiment Station with the explicit mission to enhance economic impact in Georgia in response to the Great Depression. Over the last 87 years, we have steadfastly carried that mission with our work in agricultural technology, STEM outreach, weather, healthcare, and most recently, COVID-19 response. In 2020, GTRI represented nearly $1.4 billion of economic impact to Georgia. Our strategic plan identifies paths to be recognized as a valuable, unique enabler to the state. We will dedicate ourselves to being a partner and thought leader integral to making Georgia the East Coast’s innovation hub.

The focus of our strategy will be to constantly increase our impact to, not increase revenue from, the State of Georgia. Our national security mission work has enabled GTRI to develop a wide array of core capabilities and expertise that can be pivoted to support economic impact in the State of Georgia. Our strategy will focus on enabling that pivot.

This pivot will require GTRI to explore new areas where our capabilities and know-how can have multiple applications. For example, we can expand efforts within healthcare and our STEM outreach and begin to look at advisory roles within rural broadband access across the state. Strategic hires, independent research and development (IRAD) investments, business development outreach, and external partnerships will be key tools to enable the pivot and maximize our impact.

Key strategies:

  • Establish a state government relations expert to focus on building relationships within the state and increase understanding of how GTRI can positively impact the state.
  • Formulate and execute a communications strategy to increase knowledge of our capability to impact the state.
  • Generate and leverage partnerships with Georgia Tech’s resident instruction to enhance the State of Georgia’s economic development.
  • Enable our researchers to increase impact by focusing a subset of IRAD and business development funds on state economic impact.

Serve National Security

During World War II, GTRI pivoted to support critical national security needs, resulting in a permanent expansion of our mission. Unlike defense contractors, GTRI does not profit from national security; we stand shoulder to shoulder with our government partners to serve national security. Today, this mission area represents the majority of our work. The capabilities we develop and maintain for our government partners are critical in achieving success in our other mission areas. Our service to national security will continue to be the engine of GTRI. We excel at solving our sponsors’ problems and now wish to leverage that spirit and expertise to help our sponsors think through their challenges and identify the most significant problems to be solved. This strategic plan aims at expanding our national thought leadership impact through presence, participation, and partnership with our sponsors.

Key Strategies:

  • Expand GTRI’s partnership with the intelligence community to enhance our knowledge of the threats, creating an enhanced ability for us to be thought leaders.
  • Build strategic partnerships with other UARCs, federally funded research and development centers (FFRDC), and universities.
  • Expand resident instruction partnerships in support of national security.
  • Establish two “big bets” to expand our core portfolio of capabilities into areas where long-term investment will lead to future leadership by GTRI.
  • Establish strategic technical thrusts that will leverage our core capabilities to become thought leaders in key technical areas.
  • Secure GTRI “a seat at the table” with key decision-makers, on boards, on committees.
  • Create relationships by working with the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.

Improve the Human Condition

GTRI team members have expressed an overwhelming desire to improve the human condition. It is an inspiration to have a workforce that places a priority on humanity. Our mission extends beyond the State of Georgia; it challenges us to look beyond borders and apply our skillsets to improve everyone’s lives. The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a guidepost for this mission. The strategic plan will lay the groundwork for us to explore how our core capabilities, combined with those of Georgia Tech and external partners, can catapult us into leadership roles in addressing the critical issues impacting the human condition.

Saying we are going to expand our innovation is just one small step forward. Real change happens when we make innovation a priority. We as an organization need to dedicate time and effort to innovative thinking and experimenting. We need to value the time spent exploring and collaborating in order to achieve progress in both our research and operational areas. National security work is our core, but this capability allows us to support other areas and provide needed solutions.

The virtuous cycle of work like what the Delta team has built over the last few years is an innovative way to provide value to both our Department of Defense (DoD) sponsors and local industry. This effort has leveraged our core competencies and delivered innovative solutions. Out-of-the-box thinking allowed these programs to prosper and provided the highest level of impact to each of our sponsors involved. We need to explore additional sponsors and technologies that will benefit from this approach.

GTRI also needs to focus on key strategic hires in technical areas where we can continue to influence and lead. These strategic hires will help us expand our technical horizons and reach new and exciting areas.

Key Strategies:

  • Generate resident instruction and external partnerships that utilize GTRI’s core capabilities to address the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
  • Dedicate a subset of IRAD and business development funds to addressing dual-use opportunities.
  • Generate one technical “big bet” that expands our core competencies in an area that is dual-use to national security and improving the human condition.
  • Make strategic hires in areas that address improving the human condition.
  • Generate and support processes for innovation across the 17 SDGs.

Educate Future Technology Leaders

GTRI is part of one of the greatest educational institutions in the world and provides valuable experiences for students by inviting them to work in our mission areas and learn from our staff and faculty. Moreover, we educate future leaders within our sponsors. This plan emphasizes exposing future leaders to an environment where curiosity, diversity, and inclusive innovation are celebrated.

We will focus on expanding the current efforts around STEM outreach and student hiring to include historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), minority-serving institutions (MSI), and visiting students. The diverse base of our students will lead to innovative solutions and will build upon our growing base of exceptional talent. Collaboration with resident instruction will be valuable within this area of focus and allow GTRI to extend our reach and influence primary and secondary education throughout the state.

Educating our own will be of equal importance as we look to the future. GTRI will be initiating a comprehensive leadership training program that will provide a baseline for all employees as they progress within their careers. We will be putting more emphasis on continuing education, both in access and funding, to expand expertise in our key technical and operational areas. All employees will have more opportunities to grow their expertise and elevate our collective impact on the work we do.

Key Strategies:

  • Increase HBCU/MSI strategic partnerships and student opportunities.
  • Establish an internal leadership development program.
  • Expand access to training for GTRI employees.
  • Expand STEM outreach programs.
  • Increase interaction with resident instruction to further increase student involvement with GTRI.

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As we developed key strategies for each of our four mission areas, five cross-cutting strategic goals and objectives emerged. To achieve our vision for the future, we must pursue meaningful and measurable progress in these five goal areas.

  • Agility
  • Diversity
  • Impact
  • Innovation
  • People-First


Create a culture where evolution is constant, collaboration is the norm, people are empowered, and value is delivered early and continuously to those we serve.


  • Embed continuous improvement throughout the organization, setting up the organization to adapt and pivot to meet changing needs.
  • Ensure all employees have the ability to quickly and easily collaborate across the organization.
  • Push decision-making as far down as possible, balancing speed and agility with accountability and uniformity.
  • Actively engage with those we serve to identify where we can deliver value while maintaining a constant feedback loop.


Cultivate a diverse workforce, embrace inclusive principles, achieve equality and equity, and become a community with a shared sense of belonging and appreciation.


  • Engage and educate our community to foster a sense of belonging and cross-cultural appreciation.
  • Achieve accessibility in the work environment.
  • Support employee engagement in volunteer outreach.
  • Attract, hire, promote, and retain a diverse workforce.


Maximize impact to the city, state, and nation through economic development, service to national security, improvement to the human condition, and the education of technology leaders.


  • Enable Georgia to be a technology capital of the East Coast.
  • Enhance national security through innovative solutions that improve effectiveness, capability, survivability, sustainability, and affordability.
  • Partner to solve critical and complex problems that improve the human condition.
  • Heighten recognition as world-class subject matter experts by those we serve.
  • Develop and educate a diverse pipeline of technology innovators in our communities.
  • Build impactful infrastructure and operations to support our mission.


Embrace a culture of thought leadership, intellectual curiosity, and inclusive innovation to incubate multidisciplinary, transformational solutions.


  • Amplify our thought leadership to inform decision-making across the communities we serve.
  • Relentlessly pursue multidisciplinary, innovative initiatives, idea exploration, and continuous learning.
  • Expand and diversify our ideas by providing regular opportunities for all GTRI units to collaborate and partner across campus, professional societies, national laboratories, and industry.


Champion a people-first workplace that enables everyone to develop and grow.


  • Continually promote and uphold transparency and accountability in our work environment.
  • Strengthen employee engagement, morale, and sense of well-being.
  • Support career growth and strategically invest in the ongoing development of all employees.
  • Equip our current and aspiring managers with the skills necessary to lead, mentor, and build dynamic teams.
  • Advocate for modernized benefits, employee recognition, and awards.

The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is the nonprofit, applied research division of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Founded in 1934 as the Engineering Experiment Station, GTRI has grown to more than 2,800 employees supporting eight laboratories in over 20 locations around the country and performing more than $700 million of problem-solving research annually for government and industry. GTRI's renowned researchers combine science, engineering, economics, policy, and technical expertise to solve complex problems for the U.S. federal government, state, and industry.