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KNOXVILLE — Research grants and contracts continue their upward trend at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

External research funding increased to more than $188 million in fiscal year 2010, adding $10 million to last year’s total and setting an all-time high for the campus. The funding comes from a wide variety of sources, including federal and state agencies as well as private research foundations.

As the university embarks on its journey in becoming a top 25 institution, research funding is integral to achieving this goal.

“I am proud of the hard work of our dedicated faculty and staff who continue to grow our research base and link us to vital partnerships to raise our national profile and recognition as a leading public research institution. Research is at the heart of our mission of becoming a top 25 public institution,” said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek.

Total grants and contracts for 2010 were $188,822,811. That number is up from just under $179 million the previous year and from $88 million in 2008.

The research dollars are being invested in a wide range of projects. For instance, one group is investigating innovative methods in lowering childhood obesity by studying the impact creative afterschool programs have in promoting a healthy lifestyle and behavior changes. Another researcher is working on developing the next generation of robots to address the Air Force’s needs in areas such as reconnaissance, perimeter security and mine clearing. Another group is working to create technology for developing smart structures and materials, such as houses that not only use zero energy, but produce their own energy.

The top grant was awarded to UT Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Joint Institute for Computational Sciences for $10,648,448 by the National Science Foundation. The next two grants were awarded to centers within the College of Business Administration. The Construction Industry Research and Policy Center received $9,275,712 from the Department of Labor, and the Center for Executive Education received $7,499,619 from the Air Force. Proposal submissions increased and so did the grant amounts: Half of the money requested was for projects of $2 million or greater.

The College of Engineering holds the overall top spot for awards, seeing consistent growth over the past five years. This year the college received $50,343,286 in awards — a 27-percent increase over last fiscal year.

“Research funding benefits not only faculty research, but the educational experience inside the classroom, the life of Tennesseans and the local economy. Nearly every grant received by the campus includes either funds to hire dedicated research personnel or to purchase new equipment, which contributes to both the local tax base and job market,” Cheek explained.

Economists have estimated UT Knoxville’s economic impact as well beyond $950 million annually.

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Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,