A longstanding relationship between Eastman and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, took a leap forward when leaders dedicated the Eastman Innovation Center on the UT campus and outlined joint initiatives that could have far-reaching economic and environmental impact. The center expands an existing research relationship, as the university has been a member of the Eastman Innovation Network of higher education partners since 2015. Eastman will maintain a consistent campus presence, with scientists rotating through its Knoxville space to focus on research proposals from UT research teams of faculty and students. UT and Eastman extended a master research agreement that continues the research partnership through 2026. In doing so, Eastman has committed to at least $1 million for funded research. Chris Killian, Eastman senior vice president and chief technology officer, said that because UT has acumen in areas strategic to Eastman, it is likely that Eastman will exceed the $1 million in research funding by that time.
In the process of discussing that research partnership, senior leaders in Knoxville and Kingsport, Tennessee, expanded discussions of overlapping sustainability initiatives and goals. UT and Eastman collaborated on a recycling project in 2021 to show how plastic collected at UT football games can be processed by Eastman’s molecular recycling technologies and reborn in the form of reusable water bottles. Initiatives like this will continue at Neyland Stadium in 2022. This year marks the 30th anniversary of “Good Sports Always Give Back,” a UT recycling program of which Eastman is a founding partner. Ongoing research collaborations between UT and Eastman focus on the development of next-generation structural and functional materials that are sustainable for use in a variety of applications including automotive manufacturing.
Deborah Crawford, vice chancellor for research, summarized the wider impact of the UT-Eastman research collaboration, saying, “This is about mutual benefit, but it’s also about a greater purpose—serving the public good. Those ‘big ideas’ for renewables and circularity that we’re able to develop in the next few years can be applied across the region and the world.”
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