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The National Science Foundation has given the University of Tennessee and partners a $1 million Engines Development Award to advance transportation mobility technology and access in Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is a core partner on a new National Science Foundation Engines Development Program award led by the University of Kentucky.

The project, “Advancing carbon centric circular economy technologies for advanced manufacturing solutions,” is led by a coalition named Generate Advanced Manufacturing Excellence for Change, or GAME Change.

The work of the GAME Change coalition focuses on the Southeastern Commerce Corridor, including the I-65 and I-75 thoroughfares and the promising high-growth centers of Louisville and Lexington in Kentucky and Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga in Tennessee, which outline an Appalachian region in need of greater connectivity and economic resiliency.

The coalition of more than 60 research, education, economic development, industrial and manufacturing leaders of the SCC aims to create a diverse innovation and talent development hub that secures U.S. competitiveness in next-generation manufacturing and supply chain logistics, supports closed-cycle manufacturing to reduce waste, and increases efficiencies across sectors including automotive, aerospace, energy, food and beverage, and materials. Taken together, these measures will help reinforce the circular economy—a model for diversifying and extending the life cycle of products to help eliminate waste and gain the highest value from products and materials.

Through the initial $1 million award, NSF is providing GAME Change with two years of funding for planning to create economic, societal and technological opportunities for the Kentucky-Tennessee region, preparing the team to pursue up to $160 million in follow-on funding from NSF.

The project includes several technical thrusts that will bring multi-institutional teams together to create a roadmap for a use-inspired research and development plan to catalyze a culture of innovation for the region. Representing UT, Peebles Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Dayakar Penumadu will co-lead planning efforts for sustainable product lifecycles, and Haslam Chair in Logistics Tom Goldsby will co-lead planning efforts for supply chain innovations.

“The University of Tennessee is excited to work with our coalition of partners to drive innovation across the Southeastern Commerce Corridor,” said UT Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Marc Gibson, who serves on the GAME Change leadership team and will be responsible for bringing together the partners. “This award will help us catalyze workforce development, drive global competitiveness and engage our stakeholders to strengthen connections within the region.”

GAME Change leadership in Tennessee is provided by UT Knoxville, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT Chattanooga, and state-government- and tech-based economic development organizations.

“We are delighted to join with our partners in Kentucky to strengthen manufacturing industries and their supply chains in the SCC ,” said UT Vice Chancellor for Research Deborah Crawford. “Not only will our work advance the circular economy, it will create new opportunities for communities across the region.”

Of the more than 40 Engines Development Awards announced by NSF last month, UT is leading one — a 90-partner statewide consortium named TEAM TN, focused on advancing technology-enabled mobility solutions — and is a partner on another led by the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology focused on carbon-neutral agricultural crop technologies in addition to the GAME Change coalition project.

The NSF Engines program is a transformational investment for the nation, ensuring that the U.S. remains in the vanguard of competitiveness for decades to come.

“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”

About the National Science Foundation’s Engines Program

Launched by NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the program uniquely harnesses the nation’s science and technology research and development enterprise and regional-level resources. NSF Engines aspire to catalyze robust partnerships to positively impact regional economies, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness and create local, high-wage jobs.


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UT Media Contact: Christie Kennedy (, 865-974-8674)