Aerospace took a step forward Monday as an industrial frontier in the minds of many in South Carolina when USC announced its long-awaited home for a new research center.
The McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research will be located in the SCRA/USC Innovation Center at Catawba and Assembly streets, across from the University of South Carolina’s College of Engineering. The McNair Center’s offices already were housed in the SCRA/USC facility, but it was able to lease additional space to include the planned $4.5 million Advanced Composite Materials Research Center.
The composite center will focus on developing new lightweight composite structures and advanced robotic technology for aircraft components. Aerospace has emerged as a leading up-and-coming industry in South Carolina in recent years and the university has been searching for a suitable location for the new center for months.
“In the past, business and the state’s research universities, including ours, have not always been in sync like they needed to be,” said USC President Harris Pastides, who joined roughly 100 community and business leaders for the opening of the space. “But today, USC becomes a catalyst in the ongoing economic development of (aeronautics safety).”
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Research universities and businesses are working more closely together and along with the state’s technical colleges to find the talent required to support aerospace and aeronautics in the state, Pastides said.
The vision is for the Advanced Composite Materials Research Center to attract students, faculty and industry to the state from all over the world, Pastides said.
Named in honor of South Carolina astronaut Ron McNair, the center will lease 13,500 square feet of space from SCRA/USC for $99,000 per year for five years, the university said. Construction on the Advanced Composite Center is expected to begin in August. The McNair Center would become the only university center in the United States with a production-level fiber placement machine, now found exclusively in industrial settings, officials said.
“We’re grateful that SCRA supports our goal of making McNair the research center of choice for the aerospace industry in the United States,” said Martin Keaney, McNair executive director.
More than two dozen researchers already work in several aerospace-related research fields at the McNair Center, the university said.
“We recognize the growing importance of the aerospace industry to South Carolina’s economy, SCRA CEO Bill Mahoney said in a statement about the center opening on Monday.
“Having McNair located in SCRA’s Innovation Center helps to further our mission of growing the state’s knowledge economy and serves as a showpiece for South Carolina’s aerospace research and advanced manufacturing capabilities,” Mahoney said.