Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville is a vital outpost for its engineering programs, but it’s also a major partner in bringing business to the Upstate.
David Clayton, executive director of CU-ICAR, said the campus is the “front door for industry.” Many companies get their first impression of Clemson at ICAR and the campus was founded on the principle of public-private partnerships, he said.
Filling business needs
The 250-acre campus is home to 21 campus partners, with the biggest being BMW’s 80,000-square-foot Information Technology Research Center, and JTEKT North America Regional Headquarters & Technical Center with 117,000 square feet of space and 200-person occupancy.
Because ICAR is a research campus, companies have access to facilities and equipment that they wouldn’t ordinarily have, like a full chassis dynamometer for vehicle testing, temperature-controlled chambers and an open platform for autonomous vehicles to test sensors and algorithms, said Clayton. The companies based at ICAR have hundreds of employees, and they have the option to build new facilities if nothing available meets their needs.
Groups like Upstate South Carolina Alliance and Greenville Area Development Corp. help recruit companies to ICAR, and ICAR has relationships with real estate brokerages as well. Clayton said the location is perfect for companies looking to get into the Southeastern automotive hub, as it’s about two hours from either Charlotte or Atlanta, with a number of original equipment manufacturers and suppliers nearby.
Offering a right-size location
Mark Farris, president and CEO of Greenville Area Development Corp., said ICAR is the choice for many international companies looking to establish a small presence in the United States before making longer-term commitments.
“That kind of space is in higher demand now,” he said.
The business partnerships, Clayton said, are all great opportunities for students, and the campus is bringing in more diversified companies, like power tool manufacturer TTI, that doesn’t have an automotive focus. The automotive industry, he said, is now becoming the mobility industry, meaning the focus of the industry is moving from personally owned automobiles to a larger focus on transportation. Even the Department of Defense is working with ICAR on its next generation of off-road vehicles.
“The focus is broadening — I see it as opportunity,” Clayton said.
He said while the industry has made a lot of advancements with autonomous on-road tech, the realm of off-road autonomy hasn’t been explored nearly as much.
Clayton said work will soon start on a 40,000-square-foot, multi-tenant high-bay, flexible laboratory and office building shell project intended for business tenants, and that 200 acres await further development at the ICAR campus. Meanwhile, the total available space for business is just under 22,000 square feet.
“It comes down to creating opportunities for students and alumni,” he said.
- Broke ground in 2003
- 21 campus partners
- 250 acres
- 95% of students are gainfully employed in the automotive industry
- Global student population representing 17 countries
- 26% of alumni are employed in the state of S.C.
- 561 total M.S. and PhD degrees awarded
- $250 million in capital investment
- $500,000 in total scholarships, annual assistantships and fellowships