Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Nuclear Cluster

CNC-Logo-Color-JPG The Small Business Administration recently awarded 10 contracts (out of 173 entries) to the winners in its Innovative Economies initiative, a pilot program to:

support small business’ participation in regional economic “clusters” – collaborations between small businesses, the public sector, economic development and other organizations.

Here’s what SBA Administrator Karen Mills says about the program.

“Maximizing a region’s economic assets is one of the best ways to create long term job growth, and that’s what SBA’s new Innovative Economies pilot initiative is doing,” Mills said.

Well, we’ll see if it does that, but it’s a laudable goal. We note it here due to one of the winners.

South Carolina’s Council on Competitiveness (New Carolina), an organization that works to increase South Carolina’s competitiveness by developing industry clusters, has been awarded one of 10 “Innovative Economies” contracts … for its Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster initiative.

And here’s what that is all about:

Under the SBA contract, which totals about $600,000, New Carolina will identify gaps in the nuclear supply chain, determine which small businesses can fill the gaps, and connect those businesses with opportunities. In addition, New Carolina will identify technologies being developed at the state’s colleges and universities and work to commercialize them through start-up companies. The ultimate goal is to establish a network of suppliers in South Carolina that can serve the nuclear industry worldwide.

That is ambitious. That last part – about commercializing new technologies – very often leads to tears, as investors are skittish about supporting ideas that may not, in the end, scale well or achieve their goals generally – and not just in nuclear energy, but any industry. It’s easy to imagine many transformational technologies lying on the roadside of innovation having been hit by the reality of finance. So if New Carolina finds a way around the problem – well, that would be worth another award.

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Naturally, New Carolina has a web page. This link goes to the nuclear energy page. Here is how it describes nuclear energy out in its neck of the woods:

The Carolinas are a hub of nuclear expertise, supplying more than 11% of the nation’s nuclear power production, and we can build on that tradition. As the need for electricity increases, our solid energy expertise can provide the Carolinas with environmentally-friendly, safe and plentiful power. In fact, talented Carolinians can help develop energy infrastructure around the globe.

And here is a reprint of a story that touts the nuclear cluster:

What does the nuclear industry in the Carolinas have in common with the upstate city of Spartanburg, SC? Among other things, it employs approximately the same number of people as live in the Hub City: some 37,000. And with projections for expansion of the global nuclear energy market from US$50 billion to $300 billion in the next 15 years, that number could more than double.

The original story is here. (Now you can impress your friends who did not know that Spartanburg is the Hub City). The story might be understating the hiring potential, especially if New Carolina creates or brings to the state a stack of nuclear suppliers – a bigger stack, as it has already been quite busy.

I’m not quite sure if the companies involved are literally clustered in a small area or spread throughout the state, clustered more metaphorically. Whichever, it represents a boon to the state and a bit of perspicacity on SBA’s part to recognize the value of what New Carolina is doing.

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The field of nuclear clustering has become strongly influenced by the physics of radioactive beam facilities and by the excitement that clustering may have an important impact on the structure of nuclei at the neutron drip-line. It was clear that since Nara the field had progressed substantially and that new themes had emerged and others had crystallized.

This subject might be worth a post of its own, but for now, wrong nuclear cluster.

Nice logo.

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