The U.S. Department of Energy today awarded $20 million to the new Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee to expand the university’s partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to train the next generation of American scientists and engineers.
“This $20 million federal grant is in support of an institute that is the culmination of 40 years of effort to merge the strengths of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. “The Oak Ridge Institute will be a pipeline for a new supply of American-trained scientists and engineers, which our country sorely needs in this competitive world. It will also combine the resources and experience of the nation’s largest science and energy laboratory and a major research university. Already, the UT–Oak Ridge partnership has 250 joint faculty, five joint institutes and 250 PhD students in jointly administered energy and data programs. With such a strong foundation and such strong current leadership, I am betting that during the next 80 years, the Oak Ridge Corridor brand and the Oak Ridge Institute will be recognized as one of the most important science and engineering alliances in the world.”
For the past six years, Alexander has been chair of the Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee on Appropriations, which provides funding for the national laboratories.
“We are thankful to the Department of Energy for its support of this program that will deliver a top-tier interdisciplinary workforce talent in emerging fields for industry, government, and academia,” said UT System President Randy Boyd. “This is the first step in establishing ORI as a force to change our state and nation.”
“This investment in growing our partnership with ORNL through the Oak Ridge Institute provides even greater opportunity for our researchers to create innovative solutions to pressing global issues while we train the scientists of tomorrow,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman. “The interdisciplinary nature of ORI gives us unparalleled advantages in attracting students and faculty, resulting in a talent pipeline that will benefit the state of Tennessee, our country, and the world.”
“We truly are in an international competition for the jobs and industries of the future,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “ORI will help to set us apart, building on our long-standing partnership with the University of Tennessee to develop leaders whose discoveries and innovations will strengthen U.S. economic and national security.”
“Building a pipeline of well-trained scientists and engineers to solve today’s problems and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges is imperative as we prepare our workforce for the 21st century,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said. “This partnership between two exemplary institutions will make Tennessee and our country proud. I’m grateful to Sen. Alexander, Secretary Brouillette, Director Zacharia, and UT President Boyd for their steadfast leadership and making the Oak Ridge Institute a reality.”
Alexander included $20 million in the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020, within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for a competitively awarded funding opportunity to promote workforce development in emerging fields to prepare the next generation of American scientists and engineers. During the five-year program, students will be recruited and enrolled in UT Knoxville and ORNL’s joint graduate programs.
Alexander, Lee, Boyd, Plowman, and Zacharia participated in a video conference this afternoon to discuss the announcement along with U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Reps. Tim Burchett and Chuck Fleischmann, and Tennessee House of Representatives Speaker Cameron Sexton.