Energy, automotive and aerospace have more in common than you think


Rob-KrulacReciprocal market forces can be a catalyst to furthering innovation


By Rob Krulac, business development manager, CU-ICAR


You are attending a networking event and you happen to get pulled into a group having a lively discussion, so you politely step in a little closer to hear the conversation, and gain an understanding before you personally engage. While you listen carefully, you hear the following being bantered around: composite materials, energy consumption, increased efficiency, light-weighting, advanced manufacturing, ceramics, energy storage, scalability and recyclability… okay, you think you’ve got it!

So now you are ready to engage, but just before you get the words out, you decide to stop because it dawns on you: Is this group talking about the energy industry, the aerospace industry or the automotive industry?

Well, the correct answer could easily be any one of the above – or all of the above. The reality is that all of the technologies noted above, along with many other technology trends of today, are key to future innovations with overlapping development aspects within each of these industry market sectors. It’s what I like to refer to as “Reciprocal Markets,” similar or alike in many ways during the various stages of the research and development process, with an opportunity to speed advancement through the use of a shared and/or collaborative technology platform.

Today, when you think about these three market sectors individually, they are working on new innovations focused on both incremental and long-term advancement. Some examples include:

  • Engines/power train systems: hybrids, batteries, electronics, bearings, coatings, ceramics and alternative fuels.
  • Structures: resilience, durability, endurance testing, carbon fibers, polymers, resins, metal forming, joining technology, structural integrity, interfacing ceramics and composites.
  • Environmental: end of life, repurposing, renewables, recyclability, green, zero to landfill, disposal, etc.


It’s only logical for each specific industry to maintain its focus by sector or the end-use application. However, at some point it does make sense to engage with a Reciprocal Market partner or partners, join forces and enter into an innovation model that is built for speed to market.

While this is not a new concept, overall the timing may be right for building momentum right here in South Carolina’s backyard. We already have a growing automotive market here with further expansion on the horizon. We have an aerospace market and energy market supported by a strong international supply chain and logistics infrastructure, including our shipping industry and inland port in Greer. Led by the ongoing successes of BMW, Boeing and GE Energy, South Carolina is well poised to be in the mix and at the forefront of the next technological advancements.

In addition, South Carolina also has public/private university-led enterprises campuses such as CU-ICAR (Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research) in Greenville and the Clemson University SCE&G Energy Innovation Center in Charleston. That further plays a critical role toward the innovation and economic development components – thus providing an infrastructure and increasing capability for reciprocal market initiatives.

The existing knowledge base is here and continues to grow, so the willingness to engage in an exploratory dialogue to leverage all the existing industry and educational resources that are available could be a key next step for many. The Clemson University innovation campuses provide the proper open platform.



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