HOME / Upstate Advantages / Research & Innovation


The Upstate holds a wide breadth of industrial focus and expertise, but our true strength lies where industry and education align: research, development and innovation.

And while we are well known for our ability to design and produce some of the world’s most advanced products, we are specifically accelerating growth in the automotive, aerospace, advanced materials, biosciences and energy sectors.

The impetus behind much of the growth in the Upstate is innovation spurred by university and private sector research. Local research and development by BMW, GE Power, Michelin, Timken, Capsugel, Milliken and Abbott is redefining what’s possible in several industries, and is often supported by partnerships with Clemson University.

R&D Spotlight:

GE Renewable Energy recently established a research and development center in Clinton, South Carolina. Hear how this Upstate R&D center supports worldwide development of renewable energy products, and how #TeamUpstate resources facilitated their growth.

Intellectual Property in the Upstate

  • Since 2000, more than 14,000 Upstate resident inventors have registered U.S. patents.
  • 60 percent of the resident inventors in South Carolina reside in the Upstate SC region.
  • Upstate utility patenting activity has increased by 150 percent since 2000, and 59 percent in the five years since 2011.

From 2000-2015, the top 10 classes in which companies in the Upstate SC region have been awarded patents:

Class Class Title TOTAL
60 Power Plants 506
416 Fluid Reaction Surfaces (i.e., Impellers) 381
415 Rotary Kinetic Fluid Motors or Pumps 282
428 Stock Material or Miscellaneous Articles 258
520 Synthetic Resins of Natural Rubbers (includes Classes 520-528) 196
29 Metal Working 129
442 Fabric (Woven, Knitted or Nonwoven Textile or Cloth, Etc.) 117
361 Electricity: Electrical Systems and Devices 99
424 Drug, Bio-Affecting and Body Treating Compositions (includes Class 514) 97
73 Measuring and Testing 87

Source: U.S. Patent & Trade Office

Upstate Innovation Clusters

Innovation in Upstate South Carolina is propelled by Clemson University, a top 25 public university recognized for its strength in science and engineering. Clemson has earned a reputation for its industry-sponsored research and has established six innovation clusters (Advanced Materials; Cyberinfrastructure and Big Data Science; Energy, Transportation and Advanced Manufacturing; Health Innovation; Human Resilience; Sustainable Environment) representing longstanding areas of strength as well as new opportunities to build a national research reputation.

Clemson’s applied research occurs across the Upstate at innovation campus locations that unite academics and applied sciences:

Other R&D assets in our region include:

Materials Science and Engineering

Clemson University’s Materials Science & Engineering department, with 18 tenured or tenured track faculty, provides an academic training ground for the application of science and engineering principles to problems related to the understanding, characterization and development of new technology for the processing and manufacturing of materials and related products.

Sophisticated equipment and state-of-the-art facilities available for research within the Upstate include: Electron Microscopy Laboratory, specialized wet spinning equipment for fiber production, optical fiber production equipment including fiber draw tower and MCVD lathe, ceramic fiber equipment, thermoforming equipment, Kawabata compression tester for microfibers, materials characterization and fabric manufacturing equipment, non-woven production equipment, braiding equipment, and melt extrusion equipment.

The Clemson University Research Foundation (CURF) manages all Clemson University technologies and maintains a searchable database of technologies available for licensing. To discuss a specific technology, please email CURF or call (864) 656-4237.

Business and Technology Incubators

In addition to its academic research and industry partnerships, the Upstate region is also home to a growing number of business incubators, co-working spaces and technology training resources:

With all of these regional assets combined, it’s no surprise that Greenville was listed as one of The 7 Best Cities to Launch a Startup, by Small Business Trends, and 13 of the Fastest Growing Tech Hubs in the US by Uncubed.com.

Let our team connect you to innovation space that suits your needs.

Support for Innovation

SCRA is a self-sustaining non-profit applied R&D company that grows the technology-based economy in South Carolina by commercializing intellectual property and supporting and making investments in early-stage companies. Since 2006, SCRA efforts have resulted in cumulative metrics that include:

  • 313 technology start-ups funded in SC;
  • $21.6 million in direct investments in the top 78 start-ups, who have gone on to receive $362.7 million in additional private investments;
  • 57 SBIR/STTR grants matched;
  • 17 companies relocated to South Carolina;
  • $69,000 average salary of jobs created.

Learn more about how SCRA is supporting entrepreneurs, enabling growth of academic research and commercialization, and connecting the ecosystem.

Upstate Carolina Angel Network (UCAN) is a group of accredited investors located in the Upstate who invest in and support start-up and early-stage, high growth businesses in the Southeastern US. Since its inception in 2008, UCAN has invested more than $5.6 million in 22 companies.