The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is one of 90 organizations within a statewide coalition awarded National Science Foundation funding through its Regional Innovation Engines program. The coalition, Advancing Technology-Enabled Mobility Solutions (ATEMS-TN), is an alliance of academics, industry and technical societies that will put the $1 million “Type-1” NSF award toward outlining a statewide transportation mobility strategy to position Tennessee to compete for up to $160 million in federal funding awarded in 2025 to implement that strategy.
UTC has a pivotal role in the initiative as a result of Dr. Mina Sartipi, executive director of the UTC Research Institute, serving as chief research officer for ATEMS-TN. The project is led by Dr. Kevin Heaslip, director of the UT Knoxville Center for Transportation Research.
“We are excited to be a core partner in the ATEMS-TN coalition that represents such a diverse array of expertise and partners critical to envisioning a transportation mobility strategy of the future for Tennessee that can take advantage of emerging technologies while meeting the needs of citizens and enhancing competitiveness statewide,” Sartipi said.
“The new UTC Research Institute was announced earlier this month with transportation as one of its research pillars. We will leverage the Institute, our close collaboration with the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, the existing and internationally recognized R&D testbed in downtown Chattanooga and our close collaboration with local and state government and industry organizations.
“We look forward to working with our colleagues in the state of Tennessee and beyond to advance research in transportation and develop the workforce and entrepreneurship, while ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) is a partnership of the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). At its launch two years ago, the Institute awarded one of its first seed grants to Sartipi. Since then, UT-ORII has built one of its first convergent initiatives around increasing UT and ORNL joint research in transportation. To accelerate this effort, UT-ORII is funding an additional three to five new joint research positions on Sartipi’s team.
The NSF Engines Development Awards are to help organizations create connections and develop local innovation ecosystems within two years to prepare strong proposals for becoming future NSF Engines with the opportunity to receive up to $160 million in funding in 2025.
NSF describes this funding program as a transformational investment to ensure 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.”
The coalition’s strategic roadmap includes three interdependent emphases:
Use-inspired research and development
Research and development goals will be developed for vehicle connectivity and security; the integration of complex systems and advances in computing power, sensors and analytics; more efficient and longer-lasting battery production; and new fueling infrastructure.
Innovation to impact
New approaches will be identified to speed the transition of inventions from R&D to the market. Statewide strategies to support the incubation and acceleration of high-tech start-ups will be explored and strengthened, and mechanisms will be identified to support the training and success of diverse Tennessee entrepreneurs. New economic development initiatives will be envisioned to create, recruit and retain innovation industries in Tennessee.
Comprehensive workforce development goals and strategies will be developed to ensure that diverse Tennesseans in communities throughout the state will have access to good-paying jobs in the skilled technical and STEM workforce. Plans will be developed to reskill and upskill existing workers and to equip youth and young adults with the skills necessary to participate and thrive in the modern economy.