The center expands an existing research relationship. 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. Eastman has committed at least $1 million for funded research. Killian said that because UT works in areas strategic to Eastman, it's likely that Eastman will exceed the $1 million in research funding by that time.
"We're excited for the possibilities of the innovation center because UT's well-known expertise in fields like neutron science and additive manufacturing," he added. "We're already seeing potential innovation in our window films, Eastman Tritan copolyester, cellulose esters, and Eastman Tetrashield for can coatings."
Officials also have expanded discussions of overlapping sustainability initiatives and goals.
"We see abundant opportunities—especially on climate and material circularity—where we can work together to make a meaningful impact," UT's Crawford said.
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 made into reusable water bottles. The project will continue at Neyland Stadium in 2022. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of "Good Sports Always Give Back," a UT recycling program of which Eastman is a founding partner.
Eastman is a supplier of specialty materials, including Tritan-brand copolyester. The firm employs 14,000 worldwide and posted sales of $10.5 billion in 2021.