Ground at USC Aiken could be broken this year for the construction of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, a futuristic facility embodying a partnership between the university and the Savannah River National Laboratory.
The hope, USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan told the Aiken Municipal Development Commission, is “to break ground in ’21, in the fall.” Funding has been secured, she continued Tuesday, the partnership has been announced, a land analysis has been conducted and design of the facility is underway.
Construction could take two years.
The Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative – long workshopped – is meant to augment the university and the national lab at the Savannah River Site, as well as attract significant investments to Aiken County. According to previous renderings, the facility would cover tens of thousands of on-campus square feet, space where robotics and cybersecurity and smart manufacturing and virtual reality and computational chemistry, among other things, could flourish.
“What it is, in effect, is moving many of the research agenda items from the Savannah River National Laboratory out from the woods, and out from behind the barbed wire, onto the campus in a brand new state-of-the-art facility,” Jordan said. “This allows for them to share their research, to leverage it outward.”
A turning of shovels was previously teased for 2020. That did not happen. Instead, an intricate 3D model of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative was uncloaked in September; Jordan and then-Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar revealed the mockup at a high-profile ceremony attended by many elected officials and Department of Energy executives.
The $50 million facility’s purpose, those involved often say, is to craft a cocktail of economic, academic and industry development. It could be a catalyst, too, for a high-tech corridor near the university.
“We want to make certain we make a bigger impact in the local community in terms of spin outs and new companies based on tech, whether broader tech or energy-related,” Dabbar told the Aiken Standard in September. “That would be a victory, and that’s certainly a big focus of this collaboration.”
Jordan struck a similar tone Tuesday: “I think, if you just dream a moment, you can figure out how this could have a huge impact on attracting new industry and businesses into our area.”