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Greenville Business Magazine

The Building Block for Our Future: Materials

Oct 02, 2017 11:00AM ● By Emily Stevenson
By John Lummus
President & CEO, Upstate SC Alliance

“Inventing is a combination of brains and materials. The more brains you use, the less materials you need.”

So said American investor Charles F. Kettering, a storied engineer from Ohio who served as head of research for General Motors for 27 years and acquired 140 patents, including ethyl gasoline, Freon, and the lightweight diesel engine.

Through recognizing industry challenges and scientific exploration, Kettering contributed to a great number of technological enhancements that still affect modern products and manufacturing processes.

That inquisitive spirit lives on today as goods producers worldwide continue to explore ways to make their products better. The pursuit of lighter, more durable, environmentally resistant, and cost-effective goods drives a quest for high-performing materials across all industries, and it presents a world of opportunity for the Upstate.

With its textile roots, manufacturing resurgence, and strong connections between industry and research, our region is no stranger to innovation. We already have more than 800 businesses within the Upstate that engage in a form of advanced materials, with more than 37,000 jobs.

Our strength as a materials location is demonstrated by the $1.4 billion investment in Moore by Toray Industries, a Japanese carbon-fiber producer whose corporate slogan is “Innovation by Chemistry.” They join existing materials leaders like Milliken and Solvay who already call the Upstate home.

In fact, our region will shine this month during the Composites Suppliers Meetings South Carolina event, a first its kind in the Palmetto State. The event will draw 150 companies, including manufacturers from automotive, aerospace, defense, renewable energy, and more, to connect with engineering, procurement, supply chain, commodity teams, suppliers, and service providers.

Composites specialists from the U.S., Germany, France, Italy, and Canada are expected to attend and forge quality connections with companies from the Upstate and beyond through a combination of one-on-one meetings and conference presentations.

This event has been a great collaborative effort between our team, the S.C. Department of Commerce, and Advanced Business Events, a leading European organizer of business conventions including the Aerospace & Defense Supplier Summit Seattle.

The University of South Carolina McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research and Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research are coordinating conference programming.

We’re excited that this opportunity allows the Upstate to showcase its existing industries and academic assets, and we’re excited to build upon a growing materials ecosystem.

So, you may be thinking, why is this so exciting?

Because materials are an intersection of ideas and a building block for production.

Because applied physics, materials science, and chemistry each contribute to materials advancements.

Because all industries – from automotive, to aerospace, to computer hardware, to medical devices – are in pursuit of better material compositions to make their products stand out in the marketplace.

Because more specialized products are harder for competitors to replicate.

And because a diverse array of customers makes for a strong business position, with boundless opportunity for growth.