New Centers of Economic Excellence Approved

June 10, 2009

CHARLESTON, COLUMBIA  & CLEMSON, SC – June 10, 2009 – The Review Board that oversees the state’s endowed chairs research program voted this week to award three new Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) for a total of $11 million. The CoEE program provides incentives for the state’s three research universities (Medical University of South Carolina, University of South Carolina and Clemson University) to create Centers of Economic Excellence, along with associated endowed professorships, in high-technology areas to enhance the state’s economy.

The approval of these new Centers means that research related to several emerging high-tech, high-growth industries will now be conducted in South Carolina. The goal of this research is to generate well-paying jobs and enhance economic opportunities for the people of South Carolina.

Since 2002, the South Carolina General Assembly has appropriated $180 million from the South Carolina Education Lottery Account to fund the program. Each CoEE is awarded from $2 million to $5 million in state funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with non-state funds raised from corporate or private individual donations/partnerships or grants from federal agencies.

To receive award funding for a CoEE, the three research universities submit proposals that undergo a three-tier review process. Each proposal is first subjected to a technical review by field experts. After studying the technical review scores, the CoEE Review Board decides which proposals qualify for evaluation by an onsite review panel. This external review panel is composed mainly of senior research officials from Association of American University institutions. The review panel visits all three South Carolina research universities to hear presentations on all proposals and also to conduct interviews of investigators and other university administration. The review panel submits a final report with recommendations for award funding to the CoEE Review Board. At its final quarterly meeting of each fiscal year, the Review Board votes on which new Centers of Economic Excellence to fund.


The three newly approved CoEEs are as follows:


CoEE in Nuclear Science Strategies (USC)

State Award: $3 million

Endowed Chairs Awarded: 1

This CoEE will develop new project management techniques for nuclear plant operators, with the goal of cutting the time and cost of bringing a nuclear plant online. It will also support technological improvements, including using nuclear power as a heat source to generate alternative fuels such as hydrogen.

South Carolina is already a national leader in nuclear power, generating more than half of its electricity via nuclear reactors. At the same time, USC has a strong presence in the clean energy/alternative fuels arena. The CoEE in Nuclear Science Strategies, together with the CoEE in Nuclear Science and Energy approved last year, will create enormous potential for South Carolina to become a national hub for nuclear energy research.

The endowed chair and associated faculty for this CoEE will work with the South Carolina nuclear industry and the Savannah River National Laboratory to create new engineering and technological innovations and methods of project risk management to reduce the cost and schedule of new plant construction, enhance the security of nuclear power generation, and address related social and policy issues. CoEE researchers will also educate the next generation of nuclear engineers, helping the state maintain a leadership role within the industry and attracting talented students to South Carolina.

In its review of the merits of this CoEE, the CoEE Onsite Review Panel said: “The economic impact of this proposal was made abundantly clear by the support provided by members of the nuclear industry. Nuclear power is a major industry in South Carolina, and job creation will come as a natural byproduct of South Carolina becoming the acknowledged leader in nuclear power generation, research, education, and policy.”


CoEE in Lipidomics, Pathobiology and Therapy (MUSC)

State Award: $5 million

Endowed Chairs Awarded: 2

This CoEE will take advantage of MUSC’s existing strength in the area of lipidomics, which involves the study of lipids within biological systems. Lipids (along with carbohydrates and proteins) are one of the principle components of living cells and include fats, waxes and similar compounds.

Two endowed chairs will lead the CoEE, one focusing on lipidomics and pathobiology and the other focusing on lipidomics and drug discovery. These endowed chairs will help translate the basic lipidomics research occurring at MUSC into an understanding of how lipids play a role in health problems such as cancer, inflammation and diabetes. Researchers will then use that understanding to identify new targets for diagnostics or treatments for these illnesses.

This CoEE is likely to generate additional external research funding for MUSC’s lipid research program and could also lead to the development of patents that can be licensed, sold or serve as the basis for new start-up companies.

The CoEE Onsite Review Panel commented: “The lipid research group at MUSC is well positioned already, but the addition of two new faculty with proven expertise in the areas of drug discovery and therapeutic development will add considerably to the group’s ability to move the basic discoveries in lipid biochemistry/biology into the translation/commercialization pipeline with much greater facility than currently exists. Funding this proposal should prove to be a boon to the development of biotechnology within the state of South Carolina.”


CoEE in Tissue System Characterization (Clemson)

State Award: $3 million

Endowed Chairs Awarded: 1

This CoEE will expand on Clemson’s existing expertise in tissue engineering and biomaterials to provide alternatives to animal testing and will allow Clemson researchers to further explore new tissue-based technologies that could serve as diagnostic or therapeutic products.

The convergence of biology and engineering is currently a focus of both industry and governmental funding sources.

The CoEE Onsite Review Panel noted: “This research has substantial potential to create new patentable technology that can be licensed by Clemson to companies which will develop new products for market. . . . New ventures tend to keep proximity to the university due to their dependence upon the researcher/inventor’s laboratory from which the intellectual property was created. These start-ups will help to drive new job creation within the state, and Clemson appears to have made a solid commitment to protecting new inventions and creation of start-ups to deploy its technology.”

In approving the three new Centers, CoEE Review Board Chair Paula Harper Bethea noted, “As we weather these economic times, we cannot afford to lose momentum and focus with the CoEE program. The CoEE program is already fulfilling the goals for which it was created—creating jobs, attracting corporate investment, and raising South Carolina’s national and international reputation, but we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. The largest benefits, in terms of job creation and business recruitment, are yet to come.”


About the CoEE program

The CoEE program was created by the South Carolina legislature in 2002 and is funded through South Carolina Education Lottery proceeds. The legislation authorizes the state’s three public research institutions, Medical University of South Carolina, ClemsonUniversity and the University of South Carolina, to use state funds to create Center
s of Economic Excellence (CoEEs) in research areas that will advance South Carolina’s economy. Each Center of Economic Excellence is awarded from $2 million to $5 million in state funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with non-state investment. To date, 45 Centers of Economic Excellence have been created and 22 endowed chairs have been appointed to lead the centers. The CoEE program has resulted in more than a quarter billion dollars of non-state investment in the South Carolina economy and is responsible for the creation of more than 2,000 jobs. For more information, visit