On December 4th - 6th, the SC Centers of Excellence (also known as SmartState) held their first national conference in Charleston. The Conference was titled "Realizing a Knowledge-Based Economy: Bridging Academia, Government and Industry."
The SmartState Program with its Centers of Excellence and Endowed Chairs is woefully under under-appreciated around the State. The program was established by the legislature in 1992. It was originally funded with $30 million/year from the SC Educational Lottery, to be matched dollar for dollar with money from other sources. The money was to be used to recruit world class talent to the State's research universities.
There are currently 49 Centers of Excellence with 41 endowed chairs. These Centers have resulted in over $1.2 billion dollars of outside investment and 7000 employees. There has been a six to one return on investment for the State. There are another 40 Chairs that have been approved, but State funds have been unavailable for the match.
SmartState put together an excellent conference program, with experts in commercializing research and the knowledge economy participating. Speakers included Saul Singer, one of the author's of Start-Up Nation, Peter Beattie, former Prime Minister of Queensland, William Symonds, Director of the Pathways to Prosperity Project at Harvard and many others. Thanks to Drs. Richard Swaja (MUSC) and Dr. Tom Kurfess (ICAR)and the SmartState staff for pulling together an excellent program. Thanks as well to the entire SmartState program for what they are contributing to the State.