In 1994, BMW built its first production facility in Greer, Spartanburg County, South Carolina and created thousands of new jobs. In 2003, BMW helped found one of the premier automotive engineering departments in the United States – the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville, South Carolina, also known as CU-ICAR.
Originally, CU-ICAR was planned as a wind tunnel project lab designed to test race cars, but BMW had a different idea. BMW wanted to help educate a new kind of engineer – one who could understand how all the mechanical, electrical and computer systems in a modern automobile work together. That’s why CU-ICAR focuses on systems integration and incorporates feedback from corporate partners like BMW to structure its curriculum. CU-ICAR also conducts research in automotive and motorsports to help promote product safety and new fuel technology.
CU-ICAR is part of what’s known as an automotive cluster. In addition to the educational facilities like CU-ICAR, the South Carolina cluster includes 125 automotive suppliers and companies in a 10-county region. Many of the students from CU-ICAR begin their careers at one of these companies not far from the university. This powerful blend of manufacturing, money, and knowledge in South Carolina has created a hotspot for technological breakthroughs, and BMW’s one of the main drivers behind it all. ▪