Michelin joins BMW, IBM and Microsoft in Clemson's $90 million-plus research campus

February 19, 2004

Michelin North America announced Thursday, Feb. 19, that it will invest $3 million to endow a professorship in vehicle electronic systems integration. That amount could be increased with state and other matching funds. The endowed chair will promote accelerated improvement in electronics and the development of intelligent tire systems for automobiles and trucks that improve overall performance and efficiency. Michelin joins BMW, IBM and Microsoft as partners in Clemson's ambitious undertaking. The project will coalesce, onto a single research campus, automotive engineering, motorsports and research-driven graduate education.

"This project continues to gain substantial momentum at both the national and international level," said Chris Przirembel, Clemson's vice president for research. "An increasing number of companies and organizations are expressing serious interest in locating in or near the auto research campus."

The 400-acre Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research promises to make South Carolina a hub of the nation's automotive and motorsports industry. Site development is already under way for a graduate engineering center and an information technology research center that will focus on automotive software systems for BMW products. Future R&D facilities at the Greenville-based campus could include a full-scale wind tunnel, crash-worthiness lab and a fuels lab with an emphasis in hydrogen-based research.

Robert Geolas has been named campus director. Geolas was hired from his position as top manager for one of the country's best-known research campuses, the Centennial Campus at North Carolina State University.

Clemson expects to name the auto research campus's first endowed chair this spring. That person will also serve as director of the Carroll A. Campbell Jr. Graduate Engineering Center, the academic cornerstone of the campus named for the former S.C. governor instrumental in recruiting BMW to the state.

Automotive and motorsports engineering are increasingly driving South Carolina's economic future. More than 1,000 automotive assemblers and suppliers are within a 500-mile radius of Upstate South Carolina.

The campus's three components - graduate education, automotive engineering and motorsports - will work seamlessly, putting researchers, students and industry scientists in close working contact.

The campus's academic anchor will be the graduate engineering center, where programs will focus on systems integration. Successfully integrating mechanical, electrical and digital technologies is a growing challenge in the automotive industry as car components become increasingly computerized and complex. The center could open as early as 2005.

The automotive engineering component is being spearheaded by an information technology center that will focus on improving automotive software systems and software/hardware compatibility for BMW products. IBM and Microsoft will also play a part in the campus. The motorsports component will be anchored by a proposed wind tunnel testing facility that will feature research capabilities unique in the Western Hemisphere.
The research campus is on Interstate 85 halfway between Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta, Ga., a corridor that is home to two-thirds of the nation's motorsports racing teams.

Clemson University
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