Julie Sweet, center, North American CEO for Accenture, speaks Wednesday, December 12, 2018, before a formal ribbon cutting for the global consulting group’s new technology hub at Technology Square in Midtown. Standing from left to right are Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Gov. Nathan Deal and state Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. J. SCOTT TRUBEY/STRUBEY@AJC.COM.
Photo: J. Scott Trubey
Photo: J. Scott Trubey

Accenture opens tech hub in Midtown Atlanta

Global consulting firm Accenture on Wednesday unveiled its new innovation center in Atlanta — the centerpiece of the company’s plan to add 800 local jobs over the next few years as it expands into the metro area’s burgeoning tech industry.

The company showed off the hub’s high-tech capabilities that executives say will be used to help clients solve business challenges and develop new products. The center, located in Midtown’s Technology Square, is the company’s 11th North American innovation center, and boasts virtual reality and augmented reality suites as well as a lab to build prototype hardware.

Technologists based there will have specialties in artificial intelligence, communications, financial technology, cybersecurity, health care IT, connected devices (known as the Internet of Things), robotics and communications.

Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson said the Accenture hubwhich was first announced in September 2017, marks “about the 35th innovation center we’ve opened in Midtown.”

It joins other big names, including Honeywell, Panasonic and NCR. In October, financial giant BlackRock, picked Atlanta for a 1,000-job innovation lab, and is said to be interested in Midtown for its location.

Accenture is a consultant to Fortune 500 companies and other major firms, helping other companies develop new technology and streamline and manage their businesses.

Each of the North American hubs focus on core industries in those cities. Detroit focuses on advanced manufacturing. Houston specializes in natural resources. The New York center is weighted towards financial services and consumer goods.

The Atlanta hub’s varied mission includes many specialties because of the region’s diverse corporate community, said Julie Sweet, Accenture’s North American CEO.

“The hubs are all connected to bring the best of innovation to clients every day on the ground,” she said.

Accenture picked Atlanta for its strong tech ecosystem, burgeoning start-up scene and network of colleges, including, Georgia Tech, Morehouse, Spelman, Emory University and Georgia State University.

Though internal research and development remains a major source of innovation, corporations are turning to outside sources, leveraging new technologies emerging from universities and start-ups, to bolster their own R&D spending, Sweet said.

Accenture experts will work along side clients to co-create new technologies, apps and devices. The hub will also be a place where the top technology minds at other major firms can all collaborate together, Sweet said, and clients can draw upon the expertise in each hub.

Jimmy Etheredge, an Accenture senior managing director who leads the Southeast region, said the Atlanta hub is designed to evolve ideas into prototypes. The facility is flexible to allow clients and Accenture experts to spend a week or perhaps three months focused solely on development.

“We anticipate having dedicated space, one of these co-creation rooms here, where we will have Georgia Tech professors and graduate students working with Accenture researchers and clients around client problems,” he said.

Accenture has a cybersecurity-focused lab in Washington, D.C., to serve the federal government and other clients, but Etheredge noted metro Atlanta and Augusta’s rise as a cybersecurity hub. The U.S. Cyber Command is moving from an installation in Virginia to Fort Gordon, outside Augusta, in 2020.

Etheredge said Accenture is contemplating adding office space in Augusta to help serve the government’s needs.

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