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Clemson’s new hub of innovation, creativity, collaboration, research, and industry relations—the Watt Family Innovation Center—opened its doors to students in January 2016 and serves as a model for 21st century education with state-of-the-art technology, interactive learning systems, and flexible environments.
Corporate support plays a key role in the Watt Center, with four Founding Innovation Partners, one Innovation Partner, and several sponsors committing funding to the Center through cash and in-kind donations.
Founding Innovation Partners for the Watt include SRC, SCRA, Haworth, Philips Lighting, and Comporium. The relationship between the Center, an academic building, and these industry leaders is a model for the type of public-private collaboration the Watt Family Innovation Center intends to inspire.
Dr. Charles Watt ('59, electrical engineering), Executive Director of the Watt Family Innovation Center is founder and former chairman of Atlanta-based Scientific Research Corporation (SRC), an advanced science and engineering company that provides military and commercial technology solutions to public and private sectors. His son Steve Watt (’81, B.S. administration management) is SRC executive vice president, and son Mike Watt (’84, B.S. computer engineering) is SRC chairman and CEO. Through the leadership of the Watt family, SRC became a Founding Innovation Partner for the Center.
Philips Lighting has installed a first-of-its-kind, large-scale Power over Ethernet (PoE) lighting system in the Watt Center, which combines LED lighting to provide flexible work spaces, optimize space management in the facility, and improve energy efficiency. The Watt Center also features the largest media facade installation in the United States using Philips iColor Flex LMX gen2, flexible strands of large high-intensity LED nodes with intelligent color light. The installation includes more than 45,000 individually controllable light points designed for extraordinary effects and expansive installations.
“The Watt Family Innovation Center is a beacon for progressive schools like Clemson University looking to engage and motivate their students to develop cutting-edge ideas in collaboration with industry and government that can have real-world impact,” said Amy Huntington, president of Philips Lighting Americas.
SCRA’s partnership with the Watt will support the deployment of high-tech studios to enable new cross-discipline operations and sustainability for supporting extended network and operations, including equipment to establish virtual connectivity between the Watt Center, SCRA Innovation Centers, and research universities in the state.
“The immediate and comprehensive advancements to multi-party communications that these studios will provide will greatly contribute to and improve our state’s ‘knowledge economy,’” said SCRA CEO Bill Mahoney. “This collaboration will add value and users to the current health-care industry core that is using the SC LightRail high-speed research network.”
Innovative furniture manufacturer Haworth Inc.’s support of the Watt Family Innovation Center includes over $2 million of interior furniture and workspace products, and an additional $800,000 in research funding. Students and faculty alike have already enjoyed the different types of Haworth furniture installed throughout the building, much of which was manufactured in Clemson’s specific orange hue.
“At Haworth, we value continuous education and the innovative schools and programs in our communities that never stop exploring and teaching. Haworth is proud to support Clemson,” said Franco Bianchi, President and CEO of Haworth.
Comporium, Inc., an innovative South Carolina-based telecommunications company, has pledged $3 million in financial support and in-kind products and services to the Watt Center. Clemson’s faculty, staff and students historically have collaborated and partnered with Comporium in academic and research areas related to a wide spectrum of interest and business operations. This new relationship centers on a multi-faceted engagement that includes philanthropic support of students, faculty, equipment and operations in the new center.
“Comporium sees a great value in educating students in real-world collaboration to take a technologically advanced idea to the development of a practical application,” said Comporium President and CEO Bryant Barnes. “We believe that the Center’s role in fostering entrepreneurship and leadership with an emphasis in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) will serve the citizens of South Carolina. The Watt Center enables the connectivity of the Technology Incubator at Knowledge Park in Rock Hill and others to this network.”