A statewide consortium of advanced materials researchers and educators in South Carolina has landed a five-year $20 million Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1 award from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
This grant, announced in a University of South Carolina Office of the Vice President for Research news release, will establish a new initiative called Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina, or MADE in SC.
The collaboration unites 10 South Carolina institutions of higher education in a commitment to lead the way in advanced materials research and development, build capacity of existing South Carolina industries and attract new ones, the university said.
“The MADE in SC grant represents the culmination of several years of collaborative work across the Palmetto State,” Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, USC vice president for research, who serves as the principal investigator and project director on this award, said in a statement.
“Thanks to the $20 million NSF EPSCoR 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,” the Indian American educator said.
The collaborating partners in MADE in SC include 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 ambitious MADE in SC project, capitalizing on existing strengths and strategically allocating resources and responsibilities to maximize impacts where they will make the biggest difference, according to the news release.
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, it said.
As part of its focus, this effort 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, the news release added.
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, including 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 university noted.
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, it said.
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, the news release added.
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, it said.
Additionally, as part of the grant, the South Carolina EPSCoR/IDeA State Office will provide seed funding though the Phase-0 program to help in attracting Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer awards to South Carolina businesses in materials-related projects.
The State Office will also provide Grants for Exploratory Academic Research and GEAR-Collaborative Research Proposals funding for faculty at all South Carolina institutions of higher education to support materials manufacturing projects with potentially transformative impacts, it said.