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From Site Selection magazine, January 2023

Places for Discovery: Institutions With Energy’s Future On Their Minds Saturate TVA Territory

A 3D-printed pavilion created by students and printed by Knoxville-based Loci Robotics is accessible to people at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm and at the campus’s Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing.
Photo courtesy of University of Tennessee Research Park


VA Target Market Specialist Meryl Harris says one of her goals is to closely look at the technologies emerging in all of her target clean energy industries and then see how well the work and curricula at the state’s higher education and research institutions matches up.

So far, so good.

A spreadsheet she shared with me shows no fewer than 33 different courses of study, research centers, certificates and programs. Among them:

  • The multidisciplinary Center for Energy, Transportation and the Environment (CETE) at UT-Chattanooga;
  • The Vanderbilt Nanomaterials and Energy Devices Laboratory
  • Tennessee Tech’s Center for Energy Systems Research (CESR)
  • Western Kentucky University’s Applied Physics Institute and Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability (CEES);
  • Mississippi State University’s Institute for Clean Energy Technology (ICET, where a new Nuclear Quality Assurance Program was recently founded to boost university engagement with nuclear power industry); and
  • The JURSS Lab – Renewable Energy Research & Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Mississippi, where such varied topics as power electronics, solar energy, concrete and energy storage are explored.

The University of Tennessee, of course, is among them. In fiscal year 2021, UT reported research expenditures that totaled $316 million, as UT researchers generated 137 invention disclosures and the university supported the creation and growth of more than 30 promising high-tech ventures. UT’s largest research portfolio is in advanced energy, where the university consistently ranks sixth in the nation. Among the university’s assets is the Spark Innovation Center’s Cleantech Accelerator, which will welcome applications for its next cohort in January 2023. UT also boasts the 150-acre University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm.

Just up I-75 sits the ultimate asset: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, managed by UT-Battelle. Among recent discoveries relevant to the clean energy future of TVA territory are a cleaner, cheaper, more efficient method for making a new class of high-capacity cathode material without cobalt and battery electrolyte technology that ORNL has exclusively licensed to Safire Technology Group. Safire, a battery technology startup formerly known as BTRY, plans to locate facilities in East Tennessee as part of its plan to commercialize the liquid-to-solid battery technology.

“Improving battery technology is critical to building a clean energy future for our country,” said Susan Hubbard, ORNL deputy for science and technology. “This technology has implications for several industries, ultimately making battery systems safer, more efficient and more stable.”

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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