The University of Tennessee made a bold move in 1999 when it went public with plans to compete for the management contract of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

In a partnership with Battelle Memorial Institute, a global research and development organization committed to science and technology, the University presented the Department of Energy (DOE) with a groundbreaking proposal.

The result: UT-Battelle won the management contract, assumed responsibility for ORNL in April 2000, and has had repeat contract extensions and continued to manage ever since. In 2015, DOE extended the contract for another five years, giving UT-Battelle management responsibility through 2020.

The plans put in place by UT-Battelle have made ORNL a world leader in supercomputing, neutron science and energy research. The partnership puts the University of Tennessee in an elite class nationally of only seven premier research universities partnered with a DOE national lab, and it strengthens Tennessee’s economic development efforts.

UT is now the lab’s largest research partner with more than 250 faculty who have joint appointments at the University and ORNL, five joint institutes, 16 Tennessee Governor’s Chairs scientists, and an interdisciplinary graduate program enrolling some of the best doctoral students anywhere.

The increased funding—ORNL now has an annual budget of approximately $1.65 billion—and a commitment to recruit top researchers significantly contributes to the Tennessee economy through procurements from Tennessee companies. UT-Battelle’s success has required and facilitated unprecedented collaboration with local, state and national officials. The support has bridged the administrations of three governors: Don Sundquist, Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam.