KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Volkswagen Group of America, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee today announced a collaboration to create Volkswagen’s first innovation hub in North America at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm.
“Working with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a great opportunity to continue growing Volkswagen’s engineering footprint in the North American region,” said Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, executive vice president and chief engineering officer for Volkswagen’s North American region. “This hub, along with other research institutions here, is an integral part of Volkswagen’s global research and development efforts and can also directly contribute to vehicles in North America.”
The collaboration involves research opportunities for doctoral students and space in the Innovation North building at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm in Knoxville. Initial work will focus on developing lighter vehicle components made from composite materials and the electrification of vehicles.
The collaboration leverages the expertise of ORNL scientists and faculty members within the UT Knoxville’s Tickle College of Engineering. The work—some of the most innovative applied research of its kind being done anywhere in the world—is being led by UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Uday Vaidya and Fred N. Peebles Professor and Joint Institute for Advanced Materials Chair of Excellence Dayakar Penumadu.
“The partnership between UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Volkswagen strengthens Tennessee’s position as a significant source of innovation and talent for the Volkswagen’s North American manufacturing base, especially at the flagship Chattanooga facility,” UT Interim President Randy Boyd said. “These types of partnerships are transforming the Tennessee Valley Corridor into a global innovation leader.”
ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia noted the power of aligning industry, academia and a national laboratory. “By identifying difficult challenges and pursuing creative solutions with immediate industrial application, we can accelerate fields such as materials science, energy storage and advanced manufacturing while making vehicles better, safer and more fuel efficient,” Zacharia said.
Volkswagen has been a valued partner of the University of Tennessee since opening its Chattanooga Assembly plant in 2011. The Chattanooga facility assembles the Volkswagen Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs, specifically designed for the North American market. This past fall Volkswagen of America broke ground on a new electric vehicle production facility, which includes a 564,000-square-foot body shop addition and up to 1,000 new jobs in Tennessee.
UT Chattanooga and Volkswagen developed an MBA program allowing Volkswagen employees to earn the degree by taking classes at the plant or on campus. Volkswagen also is a member of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI—The Composites Institute), managed by Collaborative Composite Solutions, a not-for-profit organization established by the UT Research Foundation. IACMI is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, and has supported UT researchers, Volkswagen engineers and their collaborators in the creation of a novel composite liftgate for the Volkswagen Atlas that reduces weight by 35 percent as well as reducing investment cost.
“The innovations stemming from the IACMI partnership with Volkswagen have a direct and immediate impact on vehicle design and manufacturing right here in Tennessee,” UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said. “These collaborative discoveries demonstrate the real-world potential of public-private partnerships.”
The new innovation hub in Knoxville will join Volkswagen’s larger global innovation ecosystem. This includes innovation centers in Belmont, California; Wolfsburg, Germany; and Beijing, China along with innovation hubs in Barcelona, Spain; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Tokyo, Japan.
Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America and a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, with headquarters in Herndon, Virginia. Volkswagen’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Volkswagen Group is one of the world’s largest producers of passenger cars and Europe’s largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Arteon, Atlas, Beetle, Beetle Convertible, e-Golf, Golf, Golf Alltrack, Golf GTI, Golf R, Golf SportWagen, Jetta, Passat, and Tiguan vehicles through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers. Visit Volkswagen online at www.vw.com or media.vw.com to learn more.
About the University of Tennessee System
The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system co-manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 387,000 alumni around the world.
About Oak Ridge National Laboratory
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit ornl.gov and energy.gov/science.
About IACMI – The Composites Institute
The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), managed by the Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation (CCS), is a partnership of industry, universities, national laboratories, and federal, state and local governments working together to benefit the nation’s economic security by sharing existing resources and co-investing to accelerate innovative research and development in the advanced composites field. CCS is a not-for-profit organization established by The University of Tennessee Research Foundation. The national Manufacturing USA institute is supported by a $70 million commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, and over $180 million committed from IACMI’s partners. Find out more at IACMI.org.