Summerville, SC – The South Carolina Research Authority is a core member of a team selected as an inaugural recipient of up to $1 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program. Named ‘Clean Carolinas’ and led by UNC Charlotte as the principal investigator, the initiative is intended to produce an ecosystem of technology acceleration, research and development, and workforce development while targeting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility to community priorities for energy economic development and well-paying jobs.
The UNC Charlotte-led team is one of only 44 such teams nationwide receiving an NSF Engines Development Award, which will help partners collaborate to create economic, societal, and technological opportunities for their regions.
“We are very excited to partner with UNC Charlotte and others to lead this effort for South Carolina, which will accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy that is quickly becoming a prominent energy source for the future. Our state has many resources to help get us there, including our academic and industry partners and entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said SCRA Executive Director Bob Quinn. “We have a track record of success as a convener and managing collaborations that can bring about fundamental change and improvements in innovation acceleration.”
Clean Carolinas is designed to make advancements in clean energy, including offshore wind, solar, clean hydrogen, marine energy, and the electric-energy delivery and storage systems that support their integration with a grid to meet the challenges of achieving a net-carbon-neutral electric grid by 2050 and sustaining it for much longer. In addition, the initiative’s activities will form the groundwork for innovation leadership in the Carolinas and beyond by leveraging the expertise of UNC Charlotte, SCRA, and partner organizations in South Carolina, such as Clemson University, who are proven leaders in R&D as well as bringing the results of that R&D to the marketplace to address societal needs.
“The Charlotte metropolitan area is the glue that ties together a two-state region teeming with renewable energy resources, especially offshore wind,” said Michael Mazzola, lead principal investigator for the award. “The innovation flowing from North and South Carolina industry and research enterprises, such as our world-class universities, will allow ‘made in the Carolinas’ to support increased social mobility and generate more direct financial investment into our region of service.”
“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and growing their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways, and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems across our nation.”
By partnering with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, UNC Charlotte, and others, SCRA will include community priorities from the region’s households and the diverse businesses across the two states. Education and skills training, in addition to research and innovation, will also be critical, as the initiative includes collaborators from partner institutions, including East Carolina University, N.C. State University, Clemson University, N.C. A&T State University, Fayetteville State University, Elizabeth City State University, and E4 Carolinas Consortium.
The awardees span a broad range of states and regions, reaching geographic areas that have yet to fully benefit from the technology boom of the past decades. These NSF Engines Development Awards will help organizations create connections and develop their local innovation ecosystems within two years to prepare strong proposals for becoming future NSF Engines, which will each have the opportunity to receive up to $160 million.
View the ‘Clean Carolinas’ landing page.
Chartered in 1983 by the State of South Carolina as a public, nonprofit corporation, South Carolina Research Authority fuels the state’s innovation economy through the impact of its comprehensive services to technology-based startups, academia, and industry. SCRA provides funding and support to accelerate the growth of academic startups; high-quality lab and administrative workspaces; facilitation and funding for partnerships between and among industry, startups, and academic institutions; assistance and funding for the relocation of technology-based companies to South Carolina; and coaching and funding for startups that may also receive investments from its affiliate, SC Launch Inc.
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