Eastman extends innovation collaboration agreements with NC State, UNC

Hank Hayes • Aug 14, 2019 at 7:45 PM

KINGSPORT — Eastman announced Wednesday the Kingsport-based specialty products company has extended its research agreements with North Carolina State University (NC State) and the University of North Carolina (UNC).

The extensions with both schools run through 2025.

Eastman signed its first master research agreement in the Research Triangle in 2012 with NC State. In the new agreement, Eastman committed $10 million to the partnership. With UNC, Eastman is committing $2.5 million, bringing the total commitment to $5 million.

Eastman said it will continue to maintain an innovation center in the Research Triangle on NC State’s Centennial Campus. At this hub in Raleigh, scientists and engineers from the Fortune 500 company continue to manage projects with both schools and engage as industry resources on campus. Steve Crawford, Eastman senior vice president and chief technology officer, said the mutual benefits that have come from the agreements made extending the collaborations a clear choice for Eastman.

“Over the course of six years, our experiences with both NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have proven to be just what we hoped for: open innovation, flexibility on the part of our academic partners to work with industry, and significant contributions from NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill in strategic areas where we’re determined to enhance the quality of life through our material innovations,” Crawford said. “Open innovation is critical to accelerating our growth strategy, so we’re excited to move forward with new agreements with our collaborators in the Research Triangle through 2025.”

In working with Eastman, UNC and NC State have brought different spheres of expertise to bear, the company said. NC State’s excellence in engineering, textiles science, and forest biomaterials harmonizes with Eastman’s world-class cellulose esters platform and its advances in textiles. The Eastman/UNC-Chapel Hill collaboration is centered on the school’s chemistry department and its proficiencies in polymer chemistry and catalyst development.

The relationship between Eastman and the two schools has advanced innovation projects at Eastman and benefited researchers at both schools through funding support of their projects. Additionally, faculty and student researchers get a chance to tackle real-world problems.

“NC State’s collaborations with industry, like this important partnership with Eastman, directly impact the work that our students and faculty do every day,” said NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson. “Bringing research from the lab into the world is at the heart of how we think and do.”

“When I say Carolina is the leading global, public research university, it’s because of examples like our work with Eastman,” said UNC interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “Collaborating with Eastman — across multiple schools and units — is a model for partnering with industry. Eastman has access to our innovative and dynamic, leading-edge research and brilliant faculty. Working with Eastman provides Carolina with opportunities ranging from hands-on experience in product development with a global company to career advice and job coaching for our students. The extension of this successful relationship will create new possibilities for Carolina and Eastman collaboration.”

Eastman produces a broad range of products found in items people use every day.