Researchers at the University of South Carolina will soon begin studying how to lighten equipment for combat troops serving abroad. The school announced Wednesday a new $3.6 million grant from the US Department of Defense. The grants will go toward three new labs in the school’s Innovista campus to help create fuel cell batteries for the military.
EngenuitySC is a Columbia public-private partnership that helped USC land the grant. Executive Director Neal McLean says fuel cell batteries are lighter, and will ease the weight for troops who often have to carry 70 pounds on their backs.
A fuel cell enables a soldier to carry a much lighter load. They don’t have to carry a three-day supply of batteries. They can basically carry a small fuel cell and these very light cartridges which can be used to create power.
The research is on behalf of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which funds major military research and development. In the past, DARPA has financed research that eventually led to the creation of internet and global positioning systems.
McLean says DARPA was interested in studying Next Generation technologies at South Carolina because the chemical and engineering faculty at USC have experience working with fuel cells. But he said the biggest reason USC got the grant was due to the existence of the school’s Innovista campus. Innovista’s struggles to attract private companies have caused many to consider it a failure. McLean said officials need to have patience with the campus.
South Carolina is behind in this game, even relative to North Carolina and Georgia. I think it’s important that we continue to recruit companies into our state. But, I think we’ve also got to look at other strategies for growing the economy. The strategy of working with your research universities and coupling innovations coming out of those with the needs of companies is a tried and true economic development tactic.
McLean says even though EngenuitySC will not be involved in the actual research, the group will continue to work with USC in the coming months.
Representative James Clyburn first announced the grant. On Wednesday, he said he was proud of research being done at the school.