Michelin steers ICAR research arm down new road

By Wendy Weinhold
February 19, 2004

CLEMSON When Clemson University Professor Nader Jalili looks at a tire, he sees more than the spot where the rubber hits the road he sees endless opportunities for innovation.

In recent years, the assistant professor of mechanical engineering and his four-member graduate student research team has worked to develop "smarter tires" with highly advanced electronic sensors embedded in the rubber that someday could allow the tire to detect changes in road conditions and respond by changing shape.

Now that Michelin North America Inc. has announced a $3 million investment over the next five years to create an endowed professorship in vehicle electronic systems integration at Clemsons International Center for Automotive Research, Mr. Jalili looks forward to opportunities to create not only smarter tires, but smarter students.

"As students, we get very little practical experience, and at the center we will get to solve practical problems and not just know the theory," graduate student Arun Ramaratnam said. "Im feeling a little jealous about the other students because Im getting ready to graduate. Maybe Ill come back."

Since Clemson University teamed with BMW, IBM, Microsoft and now Michelin to launch the 400-acre research center off Interstate 85 in Greenville, more than $95 million in public and private funding has been secured for the project.

Marketing the Upstate as the development hot spot has not been hard for Upstate Alliance leader Sam Konduros, who said interest in the Upstate has mushroomed this year in his offices marketing efforts.

"The entire business world turned its head when BMW, IBM and Microsoft announced a partnership in the center on the same day," Mr. Konduros said. "I think youre literally talking about the creation of thousands of new jobs. There will definitely be more announcements."Michelin North America Chairman and President Jim Micali said work at the research center eventually should translate into additional jobs at Michelins manufacturing plants, two of which are located in Anderson County.

Officials and university leaders hailed the center as the beginning of a renaissance in the states economic development.

Gov. Mark Sanford said the research center is one example of the states work to change the way it recruits business.

Instead of relying on past marketing tactics that focused on the states low-cost labor, cheap land and right to work policy as chief incentives for industry, knowledge clusters such as Clemsons research center will help South Carolina rewrite the book and promote itself as a knowledge center.


$95 million driving Clemsons ICAR ahead

Endowed professorship funds:
$3 million from Michelin
$10 million from BMW
$15 million in state lottery funds

Private investments for graduate center:
$5 million from BMW suppliers
$1.1 million first-year IBM commitment

Public contributions for land, equipment and infrastructure:
$40 million in state development funds
$14 million in state funding
$7 million from Clemson Foundation

Wendy Weinhold can be reached at (864) 260-1248 or by e-mail at weinholdwm@IndependentMail.com.