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University of Tennessee System Committing up to $5 Million to Tackle State’s Grand Challenges

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Bernie Savarese speaking at a podium.

KNOXVILLE — In a move to foster collaboration and drive positive change, the University of Tennessee System has announced the launch of the UT Grand Challenge Grants with a commitment of up to $5 million to tackle Tennessee’s most pressing challenges.

The grants are open to faculty and staff at all UT campuses and institutes. The initiative is designed to spur innovative solutions to positively impact Tennessee communities while cultivating relationships across UT campuses and institutes.

“The UT Grand Challenge Grants underscore our commitment as a land-grant university to delivering meaningful change throughout Tennessee,” University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd said.

Originally launched in 2023 to tackle complex, interconnected issues affecting the lives of Tennesseans, the Grand Challenges are focused on three areas of significant statewide need:

  • Advancing K-12 education
  • Strengthening rural communities
  • Overcoming addiction

Last week, more than 80 individuals from the UT System, state government and community organizations gathered for the Grand Challenges mini-summit to discuss, collaborate and exchange ideas about the Grand Challenges.

The summit connected faculty and staff from across the state engaged in research or professional work contributing to solutions for the Grand Challenges.

The summit laid the groundwork for establishing a larger Grand Challenges Summit open to students at all UT System campuses, advancing the goal to engage and educate students on how they can help solve these challenges.

At the summit, Bernie Savarese, UT System vice president for academic affairs, research and student success, announced the launch of the UT Grand Challenge Grants.

“Through this investment, we empower our faculty and staff across all UT campuses to address pressing issues in K-12 education, rural communities and substance abuse and misuse. This initiative will foster collaboration and also reinforce our dedication to enhancing the quality of life for all Tennesseans,” said Savarese.

The Grand Challenge Grants will be awarded through a competitive review process by internal and external experts to ensure the selection of exceptional proposals that will have a lasting impact.

Winning proposals will be enrolled in the Grand Challenge Consortium which will consist of faculty and staff from across the UT System. The consortium is designed to be a self-sustaining platform allowing teams to pool resources and undertake initiatives that would be difficult for individual members to accomplish alone.

The UT Grand Challenge Grants program consists of two tiers:

  • Type 1 proposals: Eligible for $50,000–$100,000
  • Type 2 proposals: Eligible for $400,000–$500,000

The call for proposals invites individuals to leverage their expertise and dedication to address Tennessee’s Grand Challenges and contribute to making this the greatest decade in UT’s history.

Visit for more information about the UT Grand Challenge Grants.

View Mini-Summit Photos

About the UT System
The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, Memphis and Pulaski; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT System manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 58,000 students statewide; produces about 13,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 445,000 alumni around the world.


Jason Moody
505 Summer Place, UT Tower, Knoxville, TN 37902   

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Category: Announcements