Eastman Chemical Company Expands Partnership with NC State

Researchers collaborate in the Eastman Innovation Center in Research Building IV on Centennial Campus.

In 2012, Eastman Chemical Company chose NC State as one if its key university partners after a nationwide search. They negotiated a six-year master research agreement to work on projects that both benefit NC State students and faculty while also advancing innovation within Eastman.

Today, after an investment of $16 million in that strategic partnership with NC State, both groups say the collaboration has paid off. Eastman is renewing the master research agreement for another six years, with an additional commitment of $10 million.

“When we were searching for research partners, Eastman chose NC State six years ago because of the university’s leadership in partnerships – the flexibility needed to work with industry, the ability to solve real-world problems, and unique assets like Centennial Campus where Eastman’s Innovation Center is steps away from its university partner,” said Steve Crawford, Eastman senior vice president and chief technology officer. “All of those reasons that elevated NC State to the top during our search in 2012 have been borne out through our experiences in collaborating with them. They have proven critical to accelerating our innovation strategy.”

Research That Gets Results

Eastman’s support has spanned 11 academic departments and funded 86 research projects. The partnership has resulted in over 140 conference presentations, thesis chapters and journal articles, 30 invention disclosures, two patents issued and six patents pending. The research has informed and accelerated developments in products such as films, polyesters, cellulose esters and products like Avra™, a fast-drying microfiber textile line that is worn by the U.S. Ski Team.

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

Putting Learning into Practice

The company has not only funded an extensive amount of research, but has also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in graduate student recruitment, undergraduate ambassadors, student organizations, events and lectures.

“Eastman played a critical role in my development as a student and professional,” added Kobi Felton, a 2018 NC State alumnus who interned at Eastman while an undergraduate student. “Working in R&D on a computational high throughput screening team taught me how to innovate in a fast-paced environment.” 

Eastman’s business segments align with many of NC State’s strengths. The partnership is helping to advance interdisciplinary research on campus – a strategic goal for the university.  

“The partnership with Eastman has provided NC State with an opportunity to innovate how we approach university-industry collaborations,” says NC State Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, Partnerships and Economic Development Kevin Howell. “We look forward to continuing to build on the success of this partnership for another six years and beyond.”

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