By JOHN WARNER, special to Local Tech Wire

Editor’s note: John Warner is founder and a principal of InnoVenture LLC, which also produces related InnoVenture Community Forums. He publishes the website. is set for May 11-12 in Greenville.

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Thomas Friedman famously observed that the world is flat. The most talented people are free to live and work anywhere. But they don’t. Most choose to be around other affluent, educated people in places like Austin, Silicon Valley, and Research Triangle Park.

The key to our community’s success in a global, creative economy is having such deep talent in focused areas that anyone in the world who wants to be a player in these area has to know who we are.

Greenville once had this preeminence, proudly boasting about being the textile capital of the world. The itinerate textile industry migrated here from new England in search of cheap labor, land and power, and it left for the same reason when the global winds shifted.

Or did it? Over 900 textile related firms remain in the state, many specializing in advanced materials. Milliken Research is #1 in U.S. patents by a privately held US company over the last 20 years:

At on May 11 and 12, Chris Desoiza, Vice President of the Millken Research Corporation will explain the ecosystem of expertise and resources that can help Milliken be even more globally competitive.

David Stafford will define success for another major materials related research center, the Michelin Americas Research Company. John Ballato of the Clemson Advanced Materials Center and Tom Vogt of the NanoCenter at the University of South Carolina will describe their universities’ distinctive strengths. Two strong entrepreneurs, Michael Bolick of Lab21 and Ralph Hulseman of Hoowaki, will identify what their advanced materials companies need to create jobs and wealth here. Mike Panasko, President of Innovate Anderson, will outline the economic development opportunity this represents.

Many may be surprised that Milliken researcher Philip Wilson is seeking opportunities to apply their preeminent research capabilities in the emerging clean energy market where people here are also some of the world’s best. Argand Energy and Zimmer will show opportunities in solar technologies, as will Joe James of Agri-Tech Producers in biofuels. Hypernian Partners will highlight collaboration possibilities in clean energy.

Clemson’s new Vice President of Public Service and Economic Development, John Kelly, will describe the close to $100 million the university recently received to build a facility at the Restoration Institute to test offshore wind turbines. This is one of the research campuses collocated with industry that allows Clemson to become a national model of the 21st century land grant university.

Another campus is the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. Paul Venhovens will describe the exciting Deep Orange initiative to train the next generation of Henry Fords. Imtiaz Haque will outline opportunities for industry collaboration with world-class academic researchers. Transformed mobility companies growing around CU-ICAR seeking expertise and resources include Proterra, EV Power Systems, Zero Motorcycles, and Sage Automotive.

Harris Pastides, President of the University of South Carolina, and Don Herriot, the new Director of Innovista, will describe their progress in creating a globally distinctive research campus in Columbia. One of the first occupants of Innovista will be the NanoCenter, whose Center of Economic Excellence endowed chair, Brian Benicewicz, will highlight his leading research in fuel cells. Hildy Teegan, dean of the Moore School of Business, another future Innovista occupant, will describe creating a new sustainability focus for their business program to match their international business focus which leads the nation. Bill Mahoney, CEO of SCRA will describe how they are providing the infrastructure to support the knowledge economy here.

Ed Sellers, CEO of BlueCross Blue Shield of SC, will share how smart communities can grow up around one of the country’s largest mainframe data centers in Columbia. Lonnie Emard of the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management will describe the growing pipeline of information technology talent. A smart community involves the connectivity of almost everything, including appliances made by Electrolux, intelligent packaging by Sealed Air, and the connection of Bi-Lo grocery stores to homes. A high-impact company, Zipit Wireless, will show how they are collaborating with large companies around the world to deploy their distinctive web based connectivity platform.

There is deep, world-class talent all around us in advanced materials, clean energy, transformed mobility, and smart communities. It is important to take the time to celebrate our incredible progress in recent years. Then it is critical that we roll up our sleeves and connect with others who are among the best in the world to find the customers, capital, talent and technology we all need to succeed.

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