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State Approves $8M for UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute

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Signage at Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Managed by UT-Battelle for the U.S> Department of Energy

The Tennessee General Assembly passed a FY21-22 state budget Thursday that includes an $8 million investment in the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute.

“My sincere appreciation goes to Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly for their continued support of the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute,” UT System President Randy Boyd said. “Our ability to effectively leverage our nation’s largest science and energy laboratory will enable us to deliver a robust pipeline of talent in emerging fields for industry, government, and academia.”

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thomas Zacharia said the institute holds transformative potential. “Solving the most difficult scientific and technical challenges requires cooperation and sustained commitment,” Zacharia said. “The course we set now will define how great an impact we can have in fields where our leadership is essential for long-term economic competitiveness and security.”

The UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute was established in 2019 to further align the expertise and infrastructure of ORNL and UT in support of world-leading research and talent development. In addition to the state’s contribution, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $20 million over 5 years to the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute to support workforce development and innovation in emerging fields.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have the state partner with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Lab as we strive to make Tennessee the ‘go-to’ place for top-level talent and research,” said Joan Bienvenue, executive director of the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute. “Working together, we have the potential to provide educational, research, and economic opportunities statewide.”

The institute’s goal is to support kindergarten-postdoctoral STEM-related education.  Over the next 10 years, the institute plans to recruit faculty and scientists to the region, attract and train top-level student talent and develop new team-based science initiatives focused on solving some of the world’s greatest challenges.

About the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute

The UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, initially known as the Oak Ridge Institute at UT, builds upon a partnership between UT and ORNL that dates back to the Manhattan Project. Established in 2019,  the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute will create a robust talent pipeline in areas of growing national need and demand.

The UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute will address top-tier industry and workforce needs emerging from the introduction of automation and artificial intelligence. The institute will develop scientists and engineers, who will be locally relevant and globally competitive. Students will be prepared by teaching innovation and interdisciplinary problem-solving skills. To learn more about the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, go to


Bridget Waller

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Category: Announcements