Materials research is getting a nice shot in the arm with Eastman Chemical Co. and North Carolina State University reaching agreement on a new six-year, $10 million multidisciplinary research project. A joint news release describes the general goals as “cutting-edge research in chemistry, materials science and other scientific disciplines.”

Both NCSU and Eastman emphasized that one of the purposes would be to reduce the time-to-market of materials innovations. In the release, NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson said the partnership would “address real-world problems in chemistry and material sciences, and will reduce the time required to take innovative solutions to market.” Likewise, Greg Nelson, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Eastman Chemical predicted the relationship would help the company by bringing “differentiated new ideas, technologies and materials from early stage research to the market more quickly than traditional approaches.”

Apparently, not all of the scope of the initiative has been worked out. The partners say that a minimum of six colleges within NCSU eventually will participate. The final decision will be made by a research steering team formed of an equal number of company and university researchers. Initially, however, the project will encompass a broad range of departments. These include chemistry; chemical and biomolecular engineering; materials science and engineering; textile engineering, chemistry and science; forest biomaterials; graphic design and industrial design; and the university’s Center for Innovation Management Studies.

The partnership will establish two new entities: the Eastman Chemical Company Center of Excellence and the Eastman Innovation Center. While it is not clear from the information released so far exactly what the Center of Excellence is supposed to be, I suspect it will focus on the marketing, design and business propositions.

On the other hand, the Innovation Center will be a 2,000-square-foot lab where NCSU researchers and students will work along with visiting Eastman scientists and engineers. It will be located on the school’s Centennial Campus, which is already the school’s largest research hub with (according to university information) more than 60 corporate, governmental and nonprofit partners. The campus is also the locale of the colleges of engineering, textiles and veterinary medicine.