Clemson University researchers will play a leading role in teaching the nation’s manufacturers how to protect themselves from cyberattack, as they connect a growing number of devices, sensors and other equipment to the internet.

Clemson announced today that it has been named a managing partner in the new Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII), a $111 million public-private partnership led by the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). The role puts Clemson on the front lines of a battle against hackers who can steal sensitive information and wreak havoc from virtually anywhere in the world.

Woman in suit sitting down.

Paris Stringfellow serves as program director at Clemson University and chief commercialization officer for the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

Paris Stringfellow, a program director at Clemson and chief commercialization officer for the Institute, said that if the United States is to remain competitive, companies will have to transform manufacturing lines that are connected through the internet.

While new connections will increase energy efficiency, productivity and cost savings, they also create new vulnerabilities, she said.

“In theory, people could hack into a manufacturing line and do all kinds of things that could be detrimental,” Stringfellow said. “We’ll be creating the tools and enabling the skills that manufacturers can use to protect themselves. This is more important than ever as manufacturers are revisiting the design and resiliency of their manufacturing lines and supply chains in light of the recent COVID-19 disruptions.”

Led by UTSA through a five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), CyManII is a consortium of 59 proposed member institutions, including three Department of Energy National Laboratories (Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories), four Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, 24 powerhouse universities, 18 industry leaders, and 10 nonprofits.

CyManII will work to introduce a cybersecure energy-ROI that drives U.S. manufacturers and supply chains to further adopt secure, energy-efficient approaches, ultimately securing and sustaining the nation’s leadership in global manufacturing competitiveness. As part of its national strategy, CyManII will focus on three high priority areas where collaborative research and development can help U.S. manufacturers: securing automation, securing the supply chain network, and building a national program for education and workforce development.

One of Clemson’s primary roles will be to create state-of-the-art educational programs for the manufacturing workforce. Companies will be able to access a suite of cybersecurity services through the Institute.

The Institute will focus on supporting small and medium-sized manufacturers that otherwise might not have access to advanced cybersecurity services, Stringfellow said. Clemson’s role means that South Carolina companies could be among the first to access the programs, she said.

Clemson’s share of the project will be coordinated by the Clemson University Center for Advanced Manufacturing. The Clemson University Center for Workforce Development serves as the lead on workforce development initiatives for the Institute.

Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said Clemson’s participation will help create sustainable cybersecurity solutions for the nation’s manufacturers to ensure competitiveness on the global stage.

“This groundbreaking Institute brings together some of the nation’s leading scholars to help prepare manufacturers for the fourth industrial revolution, an era that will be defined by intelligent systems and big data,” he said. “As a managing partner, Clemson is well-positioned to help manufacturers in South Carolina and throughout the nation access the latest in cybersecurity technology and skills.”

Daniel Noneaker, associate dean for research in Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said Clemson’s participation in the Institute helps bolster South Carolina’s position as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.

Woman sitting on a stool talking into a video camera.

Paris Stringfellow in the studio where state-of-the-art educational programs for the manufacturing workforce will be created.

“The state of South Carolina’s support for the Clemson University Center for Advanced Manufacturing was a crucial factor in our ability to contribute to this important national effort,” he said. “Clemson’s participation is not only a critical service to the nation but also represents another feather in the cap of the state’s advanced manufacturing industry.”

Tanju Karanfil, vice president for research at Clemson, said the University’s role in the Institute will help secure the future of advanced manufacturing in the United States.

“Clemson University is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the Institute,” he said. “We have some of the nation’s leading researchers in engineering and computing, and no one exceeds our ability to create cutting-edge curricula for advanced manufacturing skills. Further, we are centrally located in the Southeast, an advanced manufacturing hub, and we collaborate closely with a wide range of advanced manufacturers.”

John Lummus, president and CEO of Upstate SC Alliance, said Clemson’s role in the Institute will support efforts to recruit new advanced manufacturers to the region.

“This will provide advanced manufacturers with new tools to protect themselves from cyberattack and enhance the state’s ability to support technology and cybersecurity companies,” he said. “Congratulations to the Clemson team on this initiative, which is another great example of how Clemson collaborates with industry and other stakeholders to support economic development.”

Trident Technical College is supporting CyManII’s efforts, helping ensure workers will be able to effectively use the Institute’s innovations. It’s the latest piece of a partnership between Clemson and Trident Technical College.

Also, as part of the partnership, some Trident Technical College students are starting their education at Trident and then transferring to Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences to complete their engineering degrees. The transfer program, SPECTRA, is funded by the National Science Foundation’s S-STEM program.

“We look forward to broadening our rich partnership with Clemson and forging new bonds with CyManII,” Trident Technical College President Mary Thornley said. “This collaborative effort will deliver cybersecurity innovations to South Carolina’s advanced-manufacturing workforce.”

Rebecca Hartley, director of operations for the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development, also commended the team on its role in the Institute.

“This is wonderful news,” she said. “Clemson’s work will help build a knowledgeable and sustainable workforce for advanced manufacturers, enhancing competitiveness and economic development nationwide.”

About the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute:

CyManII is funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and co-managed with the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER).