USC, IBM open Center for Applied Innovation in Columbia

Corner of Asembly and Blossom Streets
Corner of Asembly and Blossom Streets

The University of South Carolina and its business partner, IBM, opened doors Thursday to the new Center for Applied Innovation, a major addition in the school’s Innovista research district.

The center is designed to facilitate research efforts between USC, IBM and other industry partners, concentrating on computing technologies and data analytics demanded by global businesses, according to USC.

Formulated two years ago, the center is housed in a new five-story, $25-million structure at Blossom and Assembly streets, the heart of the sprawling USC campus and the head of Innovista. With USC and IBM as its primary tenants, the center also offers up to 110,000 square feet of office space for its mission.

“This new center is the realization that whenever it’s appropriate, the University of South Carolina will leave the ivory tower to get down to Main Street, or Blossom (Street) or Assembly (Street) . . . for the good of our students and our communities,” said USC President Harris Pastides. “This is a great building – make no mistake about it.”

USC Provost Joan Gabel said the center fulfills the university’s vision of having a public/private partnership collaborative in a facility at the center of campus. Public/private partnerships in higher education institutions assist in such areas as the construction of quality student housing, new academic facilities and research space at no cost to the institution, USC said.

“This public/private partnership allows USC to provide a unique student experience in advanced technologies and data analytics and more,” Gabel said during Thursday’s grand opening ceremony.

“A direct collaboration with an exceptional company like IBM allows our faculty to study real problems and our students to have real-time experiences and do applied research,” Gabel said.

Students will have access to IBM mentors and partnerships with faculty as they create opportunities across the USC system, she said. The USC Innovation Center will also be a rich research environment for students and faculty that will give graduates a competitive edge in hiring, Gabel said.

In 2014, IBM, which put its name on the building in two places, committed to at least 22,000 square feet of space in the center for 10 years. It opened the first 10,000 square feet on Thursday.

Beginning next week, the tech giant will begin moving 60 professionals into the building, according to Andy Bernardin, IBM senior location executive for South Carolina. “I can assure you, there is no way we would put two logos on a building if we were not committed to the long haul here,” Bernardin said.

USC partnered with Holder Properties to develop the center. Holder, a private commercial and residential real estate developer, built and financed construction of the Innovation Center and will operate and maintain the facility, USC said.

As USC opened the facility, it also announced an expanded collaboration planned at the center – the application of cognitive capabilities and the Internet of Things to develop new solutions to world problems.

The Internet of Things is a new industry standard that Bernardin described as the intersection of all the technological advances that have been made recently in areas such as cloud computing, mobile computing (cell phones), networking analytics sensors and actuator devices.

Sensors and actuator devices are on “almost everything,” Bernardin said, “and they all capture data and they all produce data that can be used. So, what the Internet of Things does is capture all of that and allow us to turn that raw data and turn it into useful data,” Bernardin said.

IBM has invested $3 billion to create an organization dedicated to building Internet of Things solutions for its clients, he said.

Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398