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Columbia Business Monthly

UofSC to lead expansion of advanced manufacturing industry in S.C.

Sep 20, 2017 03:11PM ● By Emily Stevenson

The Palmetto State is rapidly becoming the destination of choice for some of the world’s largest manufacturers, and the University of South Carolina is working to make it home to cutting-edge advanced manufacturing research and workforce development.

USC will lead a group of 10 higher education institutions in South Carolina committed to building the state’s existing industries while attracting new ones. The project, announced Tuesday (Sept. 19), is part of a five-year, $20 million National Science Foundation grant called Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina, or MADE in SC.

“The MADE in SC grant represents the culmination of several years of collaborative work across the Palmetto State,” said Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, USC’s vice president for research, who also serves as the project’s director. “Thanks to the $20 million NSF investment, we will build on the impressive network of expertise and infrastructure that already exists in the state, further strengthening our reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse, and growing our materials research and development enterprise to new heights.”

Together, the MADE in SC consortium will engage in advanced materials research and development, create a pipeline of highly trained workers to enter South Carolina’s advanced manufacturing industry and increase the capacity for economic growth and vitality in the state. As part of its focus, the effort also will expand workforce diversity through programming aimed at increasing underrepresented faculty hires as well as graduate and undergraduate students pursuing advanced materials research at all participating institutions.

Partners in MADE in SC include a wide array of institutions: USC, Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston, Furman University, USC Beaufort, Winthrop University, South Carolina State University, Claflin University and Florence-Darlington Technical College.

Each institution has a unique role to play in the MADE in SC project, capitalizing on existing strengths and strategically allocating resources and responsibilities to maximize impacts where they will make the biggest difference.

“I am proud that all of the Palmetto State’s research universities are working together along with other institutions across the state to have such a positive impact on South Carolina’s research capacity and industrial prosperity for years to come,” said USC President Harris Pastides.

The research and development component of MADE in SC will focus on materials discovery and optimization through a process promoted by the nationwide Materials Genome Initiative that combines computational modeling, data analysis and experimentation in an iterative process that leads to rapid discovery and refinement of novel materials with high potential for use in products and industry.

MADE in SC researchers will focus on three types of new materials in high demand: optical and magnetic materials, stimuli-responsive polymers and interactive biomaterials. This effort will be bolstered by recruitment of 17 new research faculty in key roles at USC, Clemson, MUSC, USC Beaufort and SCSU. The grant will also enable investment in new research infrastructure at these institutions that will be available for use by student and faculty researchers from all South Carolina colleges and universities.

The workforce development portion of the MADE in SC mission will involve the development of new undergraduate degree programs at USC Beaufort and the College of Charleston, and expanded curricula at Furman, Winthrop, Claflin and USC.

These cutting-edge educational opportunities will create a new pipeline of highly skilled workers from South Carolina’s higher education institutions into industries already thriving, and expected to grow in the Palmetto State. The grant will also provide funding for summer programs to train high school teachers to deliver engaging materials science content to better prepare students for a future in advanced materials and manufacturing.

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn praised the project. “I am proud to support research and development as important building blocks for our future,” he said. “This is a big deal for the University of South Carolina and an investment that will create good paying jobs utilizing USC’s unique capabilities.

“Advanced materials are crucial to industry in every corner of South Carolina,” said State Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “Growing our talent pipeline, and ramping up our ability to invent new components that will help companies create faster, lighter, more durable products that consumers want is smart business. By building capacity in a network of ten colleges and universities throughout South Carolina, our communities will become even more attractive to businesses looking for a new location with sustainable growth potential. It’s a win-win for our people and for our industrial partners.”