State Alliance Program

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In October 2018, the State of South Carolina’s Department of Commerce and Fraunhofer USA signed a MOU establishing the South Carolina Fraunhofer USA Alliance (SCFA). The SCFA was formed to assist the State’s business community with the challenges and opportunities presented by rapid technological change in manufacturing processes, product development and service delivery. Due to its success, Fraunhofer USA is launching the Fraunhofer USA State Alliance Program this year to offer state governments, economic development agencies and academic institutions the opportunity to develop technical assistance programs based on the Alliance template and tailored to states’ specific needs and interests.

Frequently Asked Questions#

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    The Alliance model can vary in makeup but its foundation is a partnership of the state agency that oversees economic development, university research arms, the business community and organizations focused on technology promotion and innovation. This consortium works with Fraunhofer USA to design and deploy a technical assistance program, spanning basic research to problem definition and conceptualization, to prototyping to commercialization. The program allows state-based businesses to tap Fraunhofer and university resources for solutions to complex issues associated with technology innovation for improvement of production processes, product development, service delivery and a host of other challenges facing today’s businesses. A specific focus on solving competitiveness and innovation issues facing the state’s manufacturing community is often deemed as a priority.

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    Every state, regional and local government agency responsible for economic development is concerned about maintaining economic vitality, encouraging technological innovation, and ensuring the workforce is trained, ready and able to meet the needs of a globalized and dynamic world economy. Creating an ecosystem that spurs technology innovation can prove challenging if large parts of the business community are unable to adopt and afford those technologies key to their long-term vitality. Given Fraunhofer’s capacities to transform cutting edge research into real world solutions for industry, the State Alliance Program serves as a springboard for state governments to engage Fraunhofer researchers for long term cooperation. By bringing together state officials, academic researchers, Fraunhofer experts, and businesses to understand and overcome those barriers. With reducing costs, boosting quality and efficiency, developing new products and services, the state is more likely to maintain a healthy and competitive business ecosystem.

    Additionally, Fraunhofer USA staff have experience working for and with state and local economic development programs. We understand the challenges and responsibilities of government officials charged with job creation and retention, workforce development, business creation and preservation, fostering business environments conducive to growth and innovation, as well as helping to bolster the state’s strategy to attract out-of-state and international businesses looking for expansion opportunities.

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    Over the last 15 years, the State’s leadership and economic developers have scored major wins encouraging multinational companies to establish large-scale manufacturing operations in the State. Major investments by Boeing, Samsung, Continental Tire, BMW are just a few in a long list of new production facilities. These investments help drive the State economy through increased employment, tax revenues and they present great opportunities for local businesses to join these firms’ supply chains. Yet there remains concern that the State’s small and mid-sized businesses struggle to keep up with the demands that multinationals place on all local suppliers to be as technologically advanced as they are in production quality, response time, data usage, logistics – in short, leveraging the latest technologies available for maximum efficiency and innovation. The SCFA was designed to help State businesses adapt and adopt new technologies to ensure a more complete supplier pipeline by building a robust, advanced industrial ecosystem and workforce. State economic developers can also point to the program as an asset when attracting new investments into the state from around the country or abroad.

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    The Alliance Program team has worked with companies involved in aircraft subsystems, bicycle manufacturing, thermoplastics, appliances, shipping and logistics, telemedicine, auto assembly, among others. Projects have focused on reducing defects in assembly operations, image analysis, workforce training and onboarding process improvements, capturing data and integration of data sets for better insights into operations, and automation of manual production tasks to allow workers to focus on higher value add tasks. The variety of industries and challenges addressed speaks to the Alliance Program's team’s capacity and capability to take on tough issues facing companies large and small, and delivering success where off the shelf solutions do not exist. There’s no reason to believe the Alliance model cannot be replicated to deliver similar results and successes across the country.

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    Yes! As the program grows and is offered to other states, the Alliance program will be adapted to each state’s unique needs and interests. That could include focusing the program on a specific industry or region, or focusing on a large-scale project, for example, examining an industry supply chain for robustness or vulnerabilities.

    The basic tenet of the Alliance concept however will remain constant: Sound applied research provided by teams of in-state and Fraunhofer experts across a wide span of technology disciplines for the benefit of industry. Please contact us to discuss how the Alliance Program could work for you. 

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    Clients should expect to invest financial resources and devote executive and technical talent to work with the Alliance team members to maximize the chance of success, in return for the technical assistance and matching funds that the program provides (projects typically run for 6 to 12-month terms). In addition, though state government underwrites a portion of the program, this is not a typical grant program; the use of Alliance funding comes with restrictions on usage, and progress/closeout reporting are required.

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    The plan for 2020 and 2021 is to begin a broad educational and outreach program to inform states across the US of this unique opportunity. In addition, we want to ensure every Fraunhofer USA Center and Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has the opportunity to engage in the programs and projects that we uncover. Through the Alliance model, we hope to make Fraunhofer USA a household name among government, academia and the business community in the US.

About the South Carolina Fraunhofer USA Alliance Program#

The South Carolina Fraunhofer USA Alliance (SCFUSA) is a collaborative effort between The South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, the South Carolina Department of Commerce, and Fraunhofer USA. The alliance was created to advance applied research across the state of South Carolina with the Fraunhofer USA network and South Carolina research institutions. Examples of research foci include artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0, machine learning, wearables and other advanced digital technologies. The work of the alliance and the research it supports give South Carolina a competitive edge in advancing applied research and increasing the competitiveness of South Carolina based organizations.