Centers of Economic Excellence

Spring 2008 Program Update

USC Recruits Leading Scientist to Fill CoEE Chair for Polymer Nanocomposites

A scientist renowned for his work in polymer nanocomposites and fuel-cell research will join the University of South Carolina to lead the university’s Center of Economic Excellence (CoEE) for Polymer Nanocomposite Research.

Dr. Brian Benicewicz will serve as a CoEE Endowed Chair and oversee research focused on developing improved materials for the polymers market.

South Carolina is one of the nation's top producers of plastics, specifically polymers used to manufacture packaging products for items such as juices, water, soft drinks, household cleaners, and cosmetics. The Polymer Nanocomposite Research CoEE is aiming to transform the plastics industry and thus have a major impact on the state’s manufacturing economy.


Projects under investigation at the Polymer Nanocomposite CoEE include an effort to evaluate and improve the gas barrier properties of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The CoEE has also received a grant of $901,000 from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to construct and evaluate polymer nanocomposite structures for application in high-energy storage devices.


Georgia, Kentucky Investments Make Case for CoEE

The Palmetto State faces intense competition in recruiting the world’s brightest minds to lead cutting-edge academic research programs. Other states have responded to the shifting economic development landscape—in which brainpower trumps all other advantages—by launching CoEE-type programs.

Georgia and Kentucky started programs similar to CoEE more than a decade ago. The economic results illustrate just how great the benefits of the CoEE Program can be for South Carolina:  


Georgia (Eminent Scholars Program; est. 1990)


  • Nearly $2 billion in federal and private funds has been invested in the Georgia economy as a result of the program.
  • More than 100 technology spin-off companies have been created from university research.
  • Venture capital investment in Georgia increased from $100million to $1 billion from 1995 to 2000.


Kentucky (Research Challenge Trust Fund, “Bucks for Brains,” est. 1997)


  • More than $282 million in private funding has been received by Kentucky universities as a direct result of the program.
  • Approximately 30% of Kentucky’s new U.S. patent applications are generated by Research Challenge faculty.
  • Approximately 36% of Kentucky’s startup companies are dependent on university-generated technology created by Research Challenge faculty.



Outside Investment in CoEE Program at $119 Million and Climbing

Data from South Carolina’s three research institutions reveals major gains for the CoEE Program.

The program requires dollar-for-dollar, non-state matching of state awards (between $2 million to $5 million). Of the $144 million thus far awarded by the CoEE Review Board, the three research institutions have garnered nearly $120 million (83%) in matching pledges. Of the nearly $120 million pledged by non-state investors, more than $70 million has already been collected and directly invested into the South Carolina knowledge economy.


To date, companies such as BMW, Michelin, Timken, Bank of America, SunMicrosystems, Fluor, Roche Carolina, Smith & Nephew, Wachovia, and a host of others have invested in South Carolina’s CoEE program. CoEE has also received investment from foundations and federal agencies such as the J. E. Sirrine Textile Foundation, the Duke Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, Health Sciences South Carolina, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation.


Condon Latest Appointee to CoEE Review Board

Charlie Condon has been appointed by Governor Sanford to the CoEE Review Board for a three-year term. Condon runs his own law practice, Charlie Condon Law Firm, LLC, in Mount Pleasant with an emphasis on governmental relations, criminal defense, licensing issues, personal injury, and litigation. Condon served as South Carolina Attorney General from 1995 to 2003. He has also served as Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor (Berkeley and Charleston counties), as Assistant Solicitor in Charleston County, and as Securities Commissioner of South Carolina while he was Attorney General of South Carolina. He received his J.D. from Duke University and his B.A. from Notre Dame. He is married to Dr. Emily Y. Condon and they have four children. Serving first full term (ends 7/8/10).


Press Coverage for CoEE Program

From The State: Endowed chairs working

From the Greenville News: Endowed chairs, research projects a wise investment

From the Anderson Independent: Furnishing for the future: Endowed chair program has been good for South Carolina


Who We Are

The S.C. Centers of Economic Excellence Program was established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2002, with $200 million appropriated from the South Carolina Education Lottery Account to fund the program through 2010. The legislation authorizes the state's three public research institutions, MUSC, Clemson and USC, to use state funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence 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 funds. The program also supports CoEE endowed chairs, world-renowned scientists who lead the Centers of Economic Excellence. By investing in talent and technology, the CoEE Program is designed to fuel the state's knowledge economy, resulting in high-paying jobs and an improved standard of living in South Carolina.


For more information on the CoEE Program, visit