Centers of Economic Excellence

December 2009 Program Update

CoEE Program creates 3,200 jobs, new annual report reveals

Program boosting South Carolina’s economy, quality of life.

According to its fiscal year (FY) 2009 annual report, released this week, the Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) Program is succeeding at jumpstarting South Carolina’s economy and creating high-paying jobs. The program has brought more than one-quarter billion dollars in non-state investment into the state’s economy and has led to the creation of 3,200 new jobs, most of which are high-paying, knowledge-based economy positions. Other program accomplishments to date include:

  • Creation of 45 cutting-edge research centers, public-private partnerships known as “Centers of Economic Excellence,” at the state’s research universities (Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina). These centers are positioning South Carolina competitively in the global economy.
  • Recruitment of 22 of the world’s leading scientists and engineers to South Carolina as CoEE Endowed Chairs.
  • Awards of 13 U.S. and international patents as CoEE researchers convert groundbreaking scientific discoveries into marketable products and services.
  • Founding of 11 new start-up companies in South Carolina based on CoEE research.

The state’s research universities have also reported some exciting developments in FY2009 because of the CoEE Program:


  • In March 2009, Hollings Cancer Center was designated a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center—one of only 64 centers in the country. The NCI designation is expected to add $31 to $38 million to the Charleston area economy over the next five years.
  • CoEE Endowed Chairs were instrumental in helping MUSC win two $20 million grants, one from the National Science Foundation and the other from the National Institutes of Health.
  • The CoEE Program has supported the development of a statewide network of health care simulation centers, which have trained 14,000 physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians, and students since 2008.
  • The CoEE Program is helping more stroke patients survive and thrive in South Carolina by dramatically increasing the number of rural citizens being treated with the clot-busting drug Tissue Plasminogen Activator (t-PA).
  • During FY2009, MUSC recruited three new CoEE Endowed Chairs, Dr. Melanie Thomas (Gastrointestinal Cancer Diagnostics CoEE), Dr. Paul Morgan (Brain Imaging CoEE), and Dr. Jihad Obeid (Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety CoEE).


  • CoEE Endowed Chair Dr. Kenneth Reifsnider and his team were awarded USC’s single largest federal grant ever, a $12.5 million U.S. Department of Energy award for advanced energy research. The grant will create one of 31 national Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Two fuel cell-related CoEE Endowed Chairs headlined the National Hydrogen Association annual conference in Columbia, which brought the world’s top hydrogen experts to the state.
  • Global medical giant Smith & Nephew announced a $5 million investment in USC’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Science CoEE to develop tissue-engineered materials and implantable devices.
  • The Healthcare Quality CoEE has partnered with IBM and Siemens to develop information technology infrastructure across South Carolina, which is designed to improve health care, increase research, enhance access to clinical trials, and ultimately reduce medical costs.
  • During FY2009, USC recruited four new CoEE Endowed Chairs, Dr. Martin Morad (Regenerative Medicine CoEE), Dr. Jay Moskowitz (Healthcare Quality CoEE), Dr. Brian Benicewicz (Polymer Nanocomposites CoEE), and Dr. Rita Snyder (Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety CoEE).


  • American Titanium Works (ATW) announced that it will invest $422 million to locate facilities near Clemson’s four CoEE Endowed Chairs in automotive engineering. This relocation will result in the creation of 320 new jobs. ATW also announced it will establish its applications development and engineering technical center at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) campus, which will create 40 additional engineering jobs.
  • Scientists at the Optical Materials CoEE developed a practical optical fiber, which could have a profound impact on efficiency in electronic devices worldwide.
  • Because of the CoEE Program and CU-ICAR, Clemson is the first institution of higher education in the nation to offer a Ph.D. in Automotive Engineering. In FY2009, that program graduated its first class. Since its creation, the program has doubled in size every year and currently includes students from across the U.S. and countries such as China, India, Italy, Germany, and Malaysia.
  • During FY2009, Clemson recruited one new CoEE Endowed Chair Dr. Paul Venhovens (Automotive Systems Integration CoEE).

“As the presidents of all three South Carolina research universities will eagerly tell you, these accomplishments would not have been possible without the CoEE Program,” says CoEE Review Board Chair Paula Harper Bethea.

“In 2002, the South Carolina General Assembly took an ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach to reinventing the state economy,” Bethea continues. “After a few years, we now see that industry and investment aren’t just coming, they’re coming in droves. But building a train engine and laying miles of track is not all that is required to get from Point A to Point B. It takes dynamic effort to get a train moving and equal energy to sustain an engine’s propulsion. The knowledge-based economy is no different.”