Working Together to Solve our Greatest Research Challenges

By Randy Boyd

Randy Body

Research is a critical part of the university’s mission. Advancing the frontiers of knowledge creates a more just, prosperous and sustainable future through research, scholarship and creative work.

Last year, with $28 million in combined budget support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly, the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) began building a solid foundation for the future. UT-ORII builds on existing strengths and partnerships between UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and establishes a strategic presence for critical collaborative research, interdisciplinary education and workforce development. UT-ORII brings together world-leading scientists and engineers with students and faculty under one umbrella to provide innovative education, training and workforce development with a focus on areas of vital importance to Tennessee and our nation. This year, Lee has proposed an additional $72 million investment, which would complete the state’s investment in this critical initiative eight years ahead of schedule.

We also successfully launched the regional TechStars program and recently announced the inaugural cohort of the Industries of the Future accelerator to help startup businesses progress. This accelerator will run in partnership with ORNL, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the UT System in support of our shared missions of identifying, developing and implementing innovative solutions across the Industries of the Future—and staying at the forefront of these competitive and evolving industries. Through our collective and collaborative efforts, we will help world-class startups build and scale breakthrough technologies that help address some of our world’s most pressing problems.

We also are seeing tremendous growth at the UT Research Park (UTRP) at Cherokee Farm. Located just across the Tennessee River from our flagship UT Knoxville campus, the UTRP offers an ideal location for companies and entrepreneurs to collaborate with the talent at UT. Despite the global pandemic, the number of tenants in the park has tripled in the past two years. That’s right—tripled.

Looking ahead, a recent DOE award to the tune of $900,000 will enable the launch of a new Cleantech Accelerator program to serve Tennessee companies across the entire state as an early-stage business accelerator offering support services to promising clean-tech technology companies hoping to tap Knoxville’s clean-tech innovation ecosystem.

These are just a few of the many recent examples of how we are working together, as OneUT, to solve many of our greatest challenges—both in our state and around the world.

Randy Boyd, Knoxville ’79