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Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the National Science Foundation, talks with a student while touring the FC Renew Lab inside the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing (IAMM).

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, welcomed the director of the National Science Foundation to campus Monday, where he announced a new major research award and celebrated the launch of TEAM TN, a statewide initiative to advance mobility led by UT and funded by the agency.

Director Sethuraman Panchanathan joined representatives from more than 100 public and private organizations partnering in TEAM TN for a kickoff event in the Student Union before spending the afternoon touring the university’s research labs and meeting faculty, students and staff involved in mobility projects at the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing at the UT Research Park.

“TEAM TN is an exemplary effort in terms of bringing together all the aspects of expertise that exist in the state and beyond and see how we can address the future of mobility,” said Panchanathan.

During his visit, Panchanathan also announced that UT’s new Center for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing will receive $18 million in NSF funding to develop sophisticated artificial intelligence and computational tools critical in creating next-generation quantum materials and materials for extreme environments.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Chancellor Donde Plowman addresses guests at the launch event of TEAM TN at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“It has been an honor to have the director here on Rocky Top and to have the opportunity to share the work our faculty and students are doing, alongside our partners, to advance innovations through science and engineering,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “TEAM TN in particular is an important effort for our state that has the potential to reshape our economy and bring critical opportunities for the people and communities across Tennessee.”

TEAM TN is a first-of-its-kind public–private consortium in Tennessee bringing together organizations from academia, industry, and economic development, government, nonprofit and community sectors. It will position Tennessee as a leader in the $2 trillion global mobility economy.

Along with Plowman and UT System President Randy Boyd, leaders from other Tennessee higher education institutions were on hand for the event, including UT Chattanooga Chancellor Steve Angle, University of Memphis President Bill Hardgrave, Tennessee State University President Glenda Baskin Glover, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings, and Vanderbilt University Vice Provost for Research and Innovation Padma Raghavan.

The state is already a recognized leader in automotive manufacturing with a growing presence in the electric vehicle market. Inspired by the increasing electrification and automation of transportation, the statewide coalition will conceive of, invent and commercialize new transportation systems and technologies as well as preparing Tennesseans for jobs in the innovation industries of the future.

TEAM TN has already secured a $1 million NSF Regional Innovation Engines Development award that will support the creation of a roadmap to outline a statewide transportation mobility strategy. The team will then be eligible to assist Tennessee in competing for up to $160 million in federal implementation funding in 2025.


Erica Estep (865-974-2225,