In 2002, the South Carolina General Assembly established the SmartState Program, funding it with proceeds from the South Carolina Education Lottery. The legislation authorizes the state's three public research institutions—Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina—to use state lottery funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence.

There are 48 State Centers in six industry-focused Smart Clusters: Advanced Materials & Nanotechnology, Automotive and Transportation, Biomedical, Future Fuels®, Information Science, and Pharmaceutical. Each Center is awarded from $2 million to $5 million in state lottery funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with non-state funds from corporations or other entities.

The program also supports SmartState Endowed Chairs, world-renowned scientists and engineers who lead the Centers.

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