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Greenville Business Magazine

Clemson Announces Founding Director Of Upcoming Center For Advanced Manufacturing

Jun 12, 2018 04:31PM ● By Kathleen Maris

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is joining Clemson University as the founding director of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and the Thomas F. Hash ‘69 SmartState Endowed Chair in Sustainable Development.

The center, which is just starting to take shape, is envisioned as a “one-stop shop” for research and education programs in advanced manufacturing. The ultimate goal is economic growth and job creation, Johnson said.

“This is a race,” he said. “Every other state in the union is also going in this direction, and every nation in the world would love to have the land-grant universities that we have in the United States. We’ll have some ups and downs, but at the end of the day, how do you end up making sure the whole I-85 corridor region becomes the go-to place for manufacturing?”

Clemson officials said the Center for Advanced Manufacturing will fuel growth not only in South Carolina but across the nation. They are working closely with industry leaders to develop the center’s programs, which could revolve around a variety of topics from robotics and virtual reality to artificial intelligence and lightweight materials.

Johnson is using his experience as a former government official, entrepreneur, and university professor to act as a conduit that connects manufacturers, faculty, students, and other resources.

“Dr. Johnson has impeccable credentials and a strong history of leadership and entrepreneurship,” said Clemson President James P. Clements. “He has deep advanced-manufacturing experience in both the public and private sectors, and is uniquely positioned to lead the Center for Advanced Manufacturing to success.”

One of the key advantages for South Carolina is that its Upstate resides is in the middle of the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion, an area that roughly follows Interstate 85 from Alabama to North Carolina and loops in the Nashville area. The megaregion is an emerging national leader in manufacturing, Johnson said.

“Clemson is at the heart of that, and technology innovation is the heart of leadership in that area,” he said. “So Clemson plays a key role in making sure that manufacturing has leadership in not only the state but also in the region, nation, and the world.”

Among the goals of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing is to help develop new technology that will give manufacturers a competitive edge, making them more profitable, while helping create more manufacturing jobs, Johnson said.

“There will be individual jobs that will be replaced by robots, but we’ll have a lot more jobs as a result,” he said. “It’s not just people building the robots. We’ll have jobs you haven’t even thought of yet. When the steam engine replaced the water wheel and the horse cart, yes, some people who were tending the horses lost their jobs. They could have never envisioned people running CNC mills, but that’s a direct outcome of technological advancement.”

The creation of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing was announced last December, and Johnson’s arrival in mid-May is helping kick start its activities.

The Center for Advanced Manufacturing is an umbrella organization that brings together several Clemson initiatives that are focused on research and education important to advanced manufacturers. Those initiatives include the Vehicle Assembly Center, the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Center, the Clemson Composites Center, Product Life Cycle Management, the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development, and the Center for Aviation and Automotive Technological Education Using Virtual E-Schools.

Johnson’s primary role at Clemson will be to serve as the Thomas F. Hash ‘69 SmartState Endowed Chair in Sustainable Development. Hash created the endowment in 2010, two years after he retired from Bechtel Corp. as a senior executive.

“Dr. Johnson has the vision, knowledge and experience to promote sustainable development in South Carolina and around the world,” Hash said. “He is uniquely positioned to bring together various stakeholders to address the complex issues surrounding sustainability of our natural resources.”

Johnson is the former director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, both in materials science and engineering.