In Tennessee, federal and state leaders and the state’s flagship research university have forged a unique relationship that plays a major role in national research and development priorities and the international scientific community.

The University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute co-manage Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for the U.S. Department of Energy through UT-Battelle, a 50-50 limited liability partnership. ORNL is the nation’s largest and most diverse science and energy laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative scientific and technological solutions to compelling problems in energy and security.

ORNL provides exceptional researchers with distinctive equipment and unique facilities to solve some of the world’s most challenging scientific and technical problems across a broad research portfolio. These resources include the Spallation Neutron Source, the world’s most powerful source of pulsed neutrons for research; the world’s fastest unclassified supercomputer; one of the world’s leading research reactors; and some of the largest and most advanced additive manufacturing equipment in the world.

These assets are accessible to UT faculty and students through a variety of programs and activities that form the basis for the uniquely successful UT-Oak Ridge partnership. Examples include the Science Alliance, joint institutes, the joint faculty program, the Governor’s Chair program and the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a first-of-its-kind joint Ph.D. program focused on talent development in energy and data science and technology.

UT and ORNL researchers collaborate across a diverse portfolio that ranges from artificial intelligence and biofuels to big data and supercomputing, from medical isotopes and manufacturing technologies to energy efficiency, production and storage, cyber security, fundamental discovery science and much more.

UT seeks to increase the pipeline of leadership talent ready to compete in a global economy marked by disruptive technologies, emerging industries and rapid change. ORNL is committed to attracting and developing the next generation of scientists and engineers for Department of Energy missions and U.S. competitiveness. The UT-ORNL partnership enhances both institutions’ ability to provide top-tier talent in areas of national need and to strengthen the vitality of DOE’s national laboratory system.

A new University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) has been established as UT’s administrative umbrella for all joint UT-ORNL activities. The institute will align existing centers of excellence and partnership to leverage resources, promote coordination and teamwork, and establish a central organization with immediate world-renowned status and recognition.

What is so important about the fact the University of Tennessee manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory?

  • The university’s relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory builds world-leading expertise in areas of research including high performance computing, advanced materials, neutron science, nuclear science and engineering, and isotope production.
  • UT’s support was vital to securing state-funded construction of research facilities at ORNL. For instance, the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences at ORNL is the anchor facility for DOE’s Center for Bioenergy Innovation.
  • The Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) place ORNL in a global leadership position in neutron scattering ­research—a capability that is key to increasing our understanding of the behavior of materials at the atomic and molecular level, with applications in fields ranging from energy technology to medicine and manufacturing.
  • With the ORNL Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (a user facility of DOE’s Office of Science) and the Shull Wollan Center (a UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences), East Tennessee is a top destination for scientists who want to bring the probing power of neutrons to bear on challenges in materials science and engineering.
  • The Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) is regularly home to the Top500 list’s most powerful computers in the world, and ORNL is already preparing for a future supercomputer to keep it at No. 1. This computing power supports modeling and simulation that advance scientific discovery in biology, nuclear energy, astrophysics, combustion and a host of other fields.
  • With support from the state of Tennessee, UT and ORNL created the Governor’s Chair program that has brought more than a dozen outstanding researchers to the region.
  • Since UT began managing ORNL, the technology commercialization program has spun off more than 100 new companies. The program creates opportunities for talented researchers to put their discoveries to work.
  • UT and ORNL established the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education in 2011 to increase the number of doctoral students in energy-related science and technology. Enrollment quickly grew to more than 100 students, becoming UT’s largest Ph.D. program. In 2017, the Bredesen Center added a second Ph.D. program in data science and engineering.
  • The university and the laboratory cooperate to offer the Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology.
  • The UT-ORNL partnership was a key asset in the selection of the university as the lead institution of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation.