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JULY 2006

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Manufacturing Ideas
Southern research centers churn out bundles of R&D, serve as magnets for corporate expansion.
Completed in May by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, Tenn., cost $1.4 billion and will serve scientific and industrial research by providing the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world.


estled in the Blue Ridge foothills of Greenville, S.C., far from the center of the global automotive industry, a new research park rises with an ambition as grand as Henry Ford's: Change the way people get from point A to point B.
   Called the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), the park along Interstate 85 is the brainchild of Clemson, BMW, the state of South Carolina and engineers intent on improving the way people interact with their automobiles.
   Twelve years ago, when German automaker BMW opened its first-ever assembly plant in the U.S. in Greer in Spartanburg County, S.C., many in the automotive industry scoffed. They said a company couldn't build quality vehicles in the South.
   No one's scoffing anymore.
   One of the most successful plants in the global operation of BMW paved the way for CU-ICAR and, more importantly, demonstrated to the automotive world that workers in the South can not only make quality products; they can make them better.
   Throughout the Southeast, a collaboration of corporate investment and university research and development capital is changing the region from low-cost factory for the world into a high-tech knowledge center.
   In places where factories used to make textiles, furniture and canned foods, companies are spending millions on R&D parks designed to produce the next generation of industrial plants.
   Towns like Greenville; Kannapolis, N.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; Hattiesburg, Miss.; Athens, Ga.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Knoxville, Tenn., are being transformed – and they have the big-budget R&D projects to prove it.
   Altogether, public and private sources have committed US$214 million to CU-ICAR. BMW, Timken and Michelin, three international automotive firms, are big investors, while the state is chipping in with $98 million.
   BMW last year opened its 84,000-sq.-ft. (7,804-sq.-m.) Information Technology Research Center (ITRC) on site, where more than 300 workers will perform research and testing on systems integration.
   John Boyette, director of real estate for CU-ICAR, says the 400-acre (162-hectare) development in the Upstate region grew out of BMW's need for top-level engineers focused on integrating various automotive systems.
   "BMW stepped up by pledging $40 million of their tax credits to fund the ITRC," says Boyette. "Plus, they contributed another $10 million to fund two endowed chairs at Clemson."

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