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Engineering Materials in Upstate South Carolina

Advanced manufacturing requires engineered materials, and Upstate South Carolina is increasingly supplying them to the world in the form of composites, plastics, technical textiles, optics, metals, chemicals, and ceramics. Upstate South Carolina has earned itself a spot on the map as a worldwide leader in engineered materials research and manufacturing. Highly trained graduates, world renowned companies and a dynamic workforce build the foundation for innovative companies and research facilities to develop and use the next generation of manufacturing technologies.

Engineered materials research and manufacturing has deep roots in Upstate SC. Building upon its rich history in textiles, the Upstate’s engineered materials cluster has grown to 1,038 businesses, with 40,487 employees, which is 76% higher than the national average. Upstate businesses are engineering materials that are solving industry challenges and producing materials for some of the world’s most complex products — innovations now found in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner to BMW’s X models, from surfboards to circuit boards, the Upstate cluster is making materials that are lighter, stronger, and faster.


With ease of access to both materials and markets, the Upstate has long since been an ideal location for the plastics industry. Our more than 145 companies employ over 9,000 and make up the largest concentration of plastic-related companies in the State of South Carolina.

Select Companies: Dispoz-O-Products, Mitsubishi Polyester Film, Sealed Air Corporation-Cryovac, Sterilite, VPet USA 

Optics & Photonics

Over 300 optics and photonics-related facilities serve the Carolinas with application in automotive, telecommunications, biosciences, defense and consumer products markets.

Clemson’s Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET), provides support for developing advanced materials, devices and systems that generate, transmit, manipulate and utilize light. COMSET conducts an important blend of “what-if” basic science and more applied research with immediate deliverables in wide-ranging areas including organic LEDs, specialty optical fiber, light-emitting plastics, glasses and crystals. COMSET operates an Optical Fiber Laboratory, which is the only academic facility in the United States with industry-grade capabilities for fabricating optical fiber.

Select companies: AFL Telecommunications, Ceramtec, Fibersource, OpTek Systems, Suncall America, Woven Electronics

Advanced Textiles

Much of the Upstate’s success was once built around the textile industry. Over the years as the traditional textile industry declined, the Upstate retained its presence by transitioning to the development of higher-end engineered fibers.

The carbon fiber industry cluster continues to grow in the Upstate, as companies like Upstate veteran Solvay and newer companies such as Teijin and Toray, bring their materials to the Southeast automotive and aerospace supply chains.

Upstate-headquartered Milliken & Company is a leader in private sector research in the textile industry, holding more than 3,200 patents and home to the largest textile research center in the world.

Select companies: Fitesa, Solvay, Milliken & Company, Sage Automotive Interiors, Teijin Ltd., Toray Industries

Metalworking & Fabrication

The large presence of Upstate companies in transportation equipment and industrial machinery create a strong manufacturing base for companies interested in metalworking and fabrication. These industries are both large users of finished metal products in their supply chain process.

Select companies: Flexible Technologies, Crane Instrumentation & Sampling, Renfrow Brothers, Spartanburg Steel, Timken

Research Support and Engineered Materials Assets

Advanced Materials Research Laboratory

Inside Clemson University’s 111,000 square foot Advanced Materials Research Laboratory are some of the world’s brightest researchers, using state-of-the-art equipment, driving innovation alongside industry leaders.

Available resources:

  • Electron Microscopy Laboratories
  • Optical fiber drawing capabilities
  • Laser & chemical laboratories
  • Class 100 clean rooms & instrumentation facilities.

Take a virtual tour of the Advanced Materials Research Laboratory.

The McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research

The University of South Carolina McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research’s mission is to support the aerospace industry through education, research and economic engagement, with $30 million in annual research grants and 100 graduates each year.

Core research areas:

  • Advanced Composites
  • Advanced Air Mobility
  • Combustion
  • Automation

Composites Manufacturing Technology Center

The Composites Manufacturing Technology Center (CMTC) is one of seven Centers of Excellence (COE) that serve as technology resources to the Office of Naval Research and is focal point for the development of manufacturing processes and equipment. The Composites Consortium (TCC) fosters a cooperative environment of industry, academia and federally funded facilities and laboratories that nurtures development and continuous improvement of composite manufacturing processes and technology transfer.

Center for Advanced Engineering Fibers & Films (CAEFF)

  • Designated by the National Science Foundation as a national Engineering Research Center, the only one in the country to focus solely on film and fiber research.
  • Industrial Partners have the opportunity to advance state-of-the-art polymer processing while helping universities train the next generation of polymer processing professionals.
  • Avenues for interaction with CAEFF include directed research, fiber and film process modeling and technical services.