A $4 million endowment has been created to establish the Optoelectronics Research Center of Economic Excellence at Clemson University (Clemson, SC). Private gifts from telecommunications companies Comporium (Rock Hill, SC) and PalmettoNet (Columbia, SC), along with a state match, will enable launching of the center at the university's Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The new Center of Economic Excellence will be supported by the PalmettoNet Endowed Chair in Optoelectronics and the Comporium Fund for Excellence in Optoelectronics. It will be the nexus for a community of scholars and entrepreneurs with shared interests and expertise in optoelectronics research. The center will strengthen the research program in the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET). The center will be located along with COMSET and the Electron Microscope Facility at the university's Advanced Materials Research Laboratory.
Clemson worked with PalmettoNet to bring National Lambda Rail to South Carolina via SC LightRail and will work with PalmettoNet on future projects. SC LightRail is a public-private partnership to provide a broadband high-speed optical network that extends throughout the state to be used exclusively for research.
According to John Ballato, Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development , the state previously approved and matched funds jointly between the School of Materials Science and Engineering and COMSET to the tune of $10M ($5M from private sector and $5M from State) to create an endowment for an endowed chair in photonic materials; which subsequently was further focused by the major donor into optical fiber.
COMSET, nearly 10 years old, focuses on optical materials, with a particular strength and distinction in optical fiber materials and fabrication.
"So Clemson, and the State of South Carolina, is vertically integrating its optics and photonics activites," Ballato said. "Building off of the established COMSET, there is an Endowed Chair in optical fiber ($10M) and now an endowed chair in optoelectronics ($4M), and -- we hope -- soon an endowed chair in optical networking ($4M)."
Darren Dawson, Holcombe Electrical and Computer Engineering Department chair, said that a $4 million endowment typically generates about $160,000 per year that can be spent on equipment, supplies, travel, and faculty/graduate student salaries.
The South Carolina General Assembly in 2002 established the Centers of Economic Excellence Program, which is funded by South Carolina Education Lottery proceeds. The legislation authorizes the state's three public research institutions to use state funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence in research areas that will advance South Carolina's economy. The state funds must be matched dollar-for-dollar by private investment in the program.