The Daily Gamecock

$1.5 million gift to boost USC energy research

Fluor Corporation donation partners university with Savannah River National Laboratory

USC announced Monday a $1.5 million gift from the Fluor Corporation that will partner top-notch scientists and innovators for new energy research, officials from both parties said.

USC will add $3.5 million in grants, gifts and equipment to the project, and state lottery funds will provide $5 million more for a $10 million total.

The $10 million will create a Center of Economic Excellence for the Hydrogen Economy and will fund two new endowed professorships, one in the Darla Moore School of Business and one in the College of Engineering and Computing. The hiring search will begin immediately, USC President Harris Pastides said.

University officials said the scientist will develop joint research projects between USC and the Savannah River National Laboratory for advances in hydrogen and renewable energy technology. The business expert will collaborate with scientists and technologists to translate those discoveries into commercial applications.

The gift will also start a relationship between USC and the national laboratory, the only lab in the nation without a formal relationship with a public university.

“Beyond the science, if you’re an entrepreneur, we want a lot of start-up companies here,” Pastides said.

Pastides was flanked at the Thomas Cooper Library announcement by David Seaton, Fluor’s CEO and a USC alumnus. Seaton said the corporation sees 20 or so proposals for funding each year and accepts one or two.“What stood out here to us was the combination of science and commerce,” Seaton said. “It allows scientists to do their world-class research and provides the business acumen to back it up.”

Seaton said his company had high expectations for the project and considered it an investment instead of a donation. Seaton said his company funded a similar program at Clemson two years ago.

“We want to see the best and brightest practice science because it’s a basis for economic growth,” Seaton said.

Fluor is headquartered in Texas but employs about 2,000 people in the Upstate, Seaton said. It’s a Fortune 500 company with a global workforce of more than 36,000.