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August 25, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Eastman Innovation Center opens on UTK campus

By Shannon Smith, Teknovation Assistant Editor, PYA

A newly dedicated space on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) campus will give engineering students a chance to interact with a longtime research partner and also explore possible future employment.

The Eastman Innovation Center (see UTK announcement here) is now open inside the UT Research Foundation’s Business Incubator building, expanding an existing research partnership between the company and the university. Eastman, a Kingsport-based specialty materials company, runs the Eastman Innovation Network of higher education partners. UT has been a member since 2015. Now, Eastman has a permanent campus presence.

“But this is different. So, we’re now basically building a facility, or an innovation center on the campus, which means we’ll have our talented employees working hand in hand, day in and day out, building that network, which will just improve the collaboration and improve the agility and the speed at which we work. So big milestone,” said Stephen Crawford, Executive Vice President, Technology and Chief Manufacturing, Engineering and Sustainability Officer for Eastman.

The space dedicated to the Eastman Innovation Center will allow the company’s scientists to rotate through campus to focus on research proposals from teams of faculty and students.

“Opening this new innovation center here with Eastman was such a great example of what it means to be a research land grant university trying to help people solve problems and make a difference to them,” said UTK Chancellor Donde Plowman.

She and other university research leaders, including Deb Crawford, UTK Vice Chancellor for Research, gathered for a ribbon cutting outside the new space Thursday. Joining Eastman’s Crawford was Chris Killian, Eastman’s Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. They are pictured here formally cutting the ribbon. It was a special material created by Eastman, and the same can be said of the water bottles available for attendees.

Eastman’s Tritan Renew line of recycled plastics manufactured water bottles (pictured here) were made from discarded plastics from Tennessee home football games last season.

“That’s the kind of project that our faculty have been working along with them on,” said Plowman. “How do you create this kind of a material from that kind of material? A more sustainable world.”

Eastman has committed to providing at least $1 million for funded research through 2026. Ongoing research collaborations between the company and the university focus on structural and functional materials that are sustainable and off multi-purpose applications in a variety of industries.

The Eastman Innovation Center can be found inside the UT Business Incubator building at 2450 E.J. Chapman Drive in Knoxville.

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