South Carolina SmartState® Program commemorating 20 years of research, innovation and economic impact
The South Carolina SmartState Program celebrated the 20th anniversary of the program’s founding with the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and legislators with the SmartState Council of Chairs Forum and Legislator Appreciation Breakfast at the Statehouse in May.
The SmartState Program creates incentives for the state’s three senior research universities: the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina, to work with other state institutions of higher education to fund specialized research centers. These centers work with public, private and industrial partners to expand the state’s knowledge base, create well-paying jobs, enhance economic opportunities and improve the overall quality of life for South Carolina residents.
“We are proud to be embarking on 20 years as a program of economic excellence,” said Karoly “Charles” Kerekes, vice-chair of the SmartState Review Board. “It is thanks to our remarkable program and its leaders that we have delivered unparalleled research, achievements and funding milestones for our state since 2002.”
Organized by the Commission on Higher Education, the gathering of the SmartState chairs is typically held each year and rotates between Columbia, Greenville and Charleston for the three senior research universities. The 2020 and 2021 forums were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite the fact that South Carolina was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic-induced recession of 2020, the state’s economy has nevertheless remained resilient and has maintained a steady pace of recovery into 2022,” said Joey Von Nessen, UofSC Moore School research economist. “A major driver of these positive trends has been the resilience of the knowledge economy itself, which experienced far fewer relative job losses compared to the state as a whole.
“The fastest growing regions in the U.S. throughout the 21st century have been those with a strong and vibrant knowledge economy, and this trend will likely continue in the coming decade. The SmartState Program plays a pivotal role in sustaining the ongoing development of this knowledge economy in the Palmetto State, and since 2002, has generated more than 19,000 jobs with annual salaries that pay significantly above the state average.”
Since its inception in 2002, the South Carolina SmartState program has resulted in $3.9 billion return on investment and has resulted in close to 20,000 jobs for the state.
Acknowledging the positive impact on the state, the three senior research universities are working on the next chapter of the SmartState program called SmartState 2.0.
“To take the next step, we as endowed chairs can re-engage our stakeholders, reacquaint them with what we have accomplished and inspire them with what we can do over the next 20 years with additional support, funding and collaboration,” said Laura B. Cardinal, SmartState Endowed Chair and the UofSC Moore School’s SmartState Center for Innovation + Commercialization director and management professor.
The University of South Carolina is home to 18 SmartState Centers of Economic Excellence; Clemson has 13; and MUSC has 20. Of the 51 SmartState Centers, 16 are shared between one or more university.
For the 20th anniversary, the Legislator Appreciation Breakfast event was catered by chef Geoffery Blount, a 2019 Food Network finalist, and his students from the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. After breakfast, the forum continued at the Moore School’s Sonoco Pavilion with an engaging slate of speakers, panels and conversations.
“The SmartState Endowed Chair and Center for Innovation + Commercialization are unique in that, of the nearly 75 Endowed Chairs and more than 50 Centers, we are the only one housed exclusively in a business school,” Cardinal said. “Even though I am an outlier, both SmartState and the Moore School are aligned in their commitment to world-class research and education. When the Commission decided to host part of the forum at the Moore School, I was delighted to see both sides of my world come together.”