State of Tennessee Approves $72 million for UT-ORII

Upfront Funding Accelerates Plans to Make Tennessee Hub for STEM Talent

KNOXVILLE, TN – April 22, 2022 —The Tennessee General Assembly included $72 million for the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute in its approved FY22-23 state budget Thursday.

This contribution completes the state’s $80 million commitment in the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory initiative eight years ahead of schedule. State legislators funded $8 million of that pledge in last year’s budget.

Joan Bienvenue, executive director of the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) and UT Knoxville vice provost, said receiving this generous investment from the state in a lump sum will allow the institute to fast-track its efforts.

“We’re really excited about what this means to Tennessee and our nation,” Bienvenue said. “By receiving these state funds upfront, we’ll be able to step-up our recruitment of America’s best and brightest students and our support of kindergarten-postdoctoral STEM-related education, accelerate the pace of our collaborative research and development, and train more Tennesseans for high-paying jobs in high-need areas like advanced materials and manufacturing, energy, biology and health sciences, and data analytics.”

UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory officially launched UT-ORII in 2021 to create a hub for science and technology talent and discovery for our nation.

“We appreciate the great support of Gov. Bill Lee and our Tennessee General Assembly, who continue to place a high priority on higher education’s role in addressing our state’s grand challenges,” UT System President Randy Boyd said. “For the past 20 years, we have seen our relationship with ORNL grow through joint facilities, prominent research teams, a joint graduate program and interdisciplinary research initiatives. UT-ORII builds on existing strengths and partnerships with UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and establishes a strategic presence for critical collaborative research, interdisciplinary education and workforce development to move our state forward.”

UT-ORII builds upon a partnership between the UT and ORNL that dates back to the Manhattan Project.

“The industries of the future require scientists and engineers who are able to apply their technical abilities and creative talents, while also collaborating with professionals across diverse fields,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “This state funding will help UT-ORII to quickly become a difference-maker for Tennessee.”

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