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UT and Eastman Chemical Company have signed a multiyear agreement to conduct collaborative research in multiple scientific disciplines, especially in the neutron science and additive manufacturing fields in which UT is recognized worldwide for its unique expertise.

Officials from UT and Eastman—which have worked together in other ways for years—gathered Monday at Eastman’s world headquarters in Kingsport to christen this new aspect of their relationship. UT is now the third academic partner in Eastman’s network of partner universities, joining North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

From left to right, Marc Gibson, senior director of corporate and foundation engagement at UT; Gary Luce, technology liaison for Eastman Innovation Center; David Millhorn, executive vice president for UT and president of the UT Research Foundation; Theresa Lee, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Steve Crawford, senior vice president and chief technology officer for Eastman; Stewart Witzeman, director of Eastman Innovation Center; Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor for research and engagement at UT; and Jennifer Stewart, vice president for corporate innovation at Eastman.

As part of the research agreement, Eastman will provide $750,000 in funding over three years to support research endeavors between Eastman scientists and UT faculty and students.

“We’re excited to welcome the University of Tennessee to the Eastman Innovation Network, as we’re confident this relationship with a world-class university will lead to new ideas and differentiated technologies,” said Steve Crawford, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Eastman. “UT has long been a vital, strategic partner for Eastman, and this positions us to take that partnership to the next level.”

Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said UT already has benefitted greatly from its relationship with Eastman, but this new partnership will heighten the opportunities for the university’s faculty and students.

“And combining the mind power of UT and Eastman — both proven research powerhouses — has the ability to yield scientific advances with practical applications that will make our world a better place,” he said.

Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor for research and engagement, said Eastman is an incredibly important and strategic partner for UT.

“Our strengths in polymer science are complementary and we look forward to advancing innovation and product development for Eastman,” he said.

UT’s unique capabilities in neutron science, polymers and additive manufacturing will contribute to Eastman’s approaches to understanding polymer behavior in thin films and in 3D-printed advanced composites.

With UT’s proximity to the Spallation Neutron Source and the Joint Institute for Neutron Science at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as its advances in composites manufacturing research, the university is well-positioned to be a leader in neutron sciences. As an analytical tool, neutron scattering can yield insights into how some of the basic properties of Eastman materials — especially thin films and advanced composites — interact on the atomic level, which will help further fuel Eastman’s innovation activities.

“By pairing the cutting-edge science being conducted by University of Tennessee researchers with the world-class capabilities we have at Eastman, we’re confident this partnership will accelerate growth in our innovation pipeline and support Eastman’s overall growth strategy,” said Jennifer Stewart, vice president for corporate innovation at Eastman.

Eastman expects to issue its first call for research proposals from UT later this summer and select the initial class of projects for funding this fall.

This past spring, UT and Eastman celebrated another collaboration.

Representatives from Eastman were on campus to open the new Eastman Unit Operations Laboratory. The operations lab in the Nathan W. Dougherty Engineering Building provides a venue where chemical engineering students can take theoretical knowledge and put it to use under monitored conditions.

The new research partnership will allow visiting Eastman scientists to work in UT labs and allow UT researchers to do the same at Eastman labs.

Stewart Witzeman, who heads up Eastman’s external university research partnerships, said UT is a natural fit.

“We have for some time anticipated forming this partnership with the University of Tennessee and have worked diligently toward making it happen,” Witzeman said. “The relationship we already have with UT and the geographical proximity to our world headquarters were factors, but it goes beyond that. Their research is on the cutting edge of science, and that, as much as anything, makes the University of Tennessee a natural fit with the Eastman Innovation Network.”

Headquartered in Kingsport, Tennessee, Eastman is a global specialty chemical company that produces a broad range of products found in items people use every day. Eastman employs approximately 15,000 people around the world and serves customers in approximately 100 countries. Its 2014 revenues were approximately $9.5 billion.


Erin Chapin (865-974-2187,

Brad Lifford, Eastman Chemical Company (423-229-6543, cell 423-707-4384,