Dr. Peter Tsai honored with prestigious Innovator Hall of Fame Award

The 2019 University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) Innovation Awards celebrated a banner year in innovation and marketplace success for university-based technologies.

The Knoxville awards ceremony, held on December 4, recognized the UT researchers whose innovations better society. 2019 honorees included researchers who patented 19 new innovations and/or secured 28 licenses, as well as a new startup company showing enormous potential, Electro-Active Technologies. Five teams of UT researchers were awarded Maturation Grants, helping to further the development of technologies with potential for commercial success. Throughout this year, UTRF received 168 invention disclosures and filed 108 patents for UT inventions.

Dr. Jillian Maeder & Dr. Michael Berry receive a 2020 Technology Maturation Grant for their VocaCoord technology.

“The UT innovators honored at this year’s awards showcase the enormous potential of the University of Tennessee’s research” said Dr. Maha Krishnamurthy, vice president of UTRF. “Through commercialization and prioritizing industry partnerships in the marketplace, inventions built here in Knoxville are impacting lives across the globe.”

The University of Tennessee’s Dr. Peter Tsai was honored with the prestigious Innovator Hall of Fame Award for his decades of innovation, developing life-saving technologies that have protected the health of more than one billion people across the globe.

Dr. Tsai is a world-renowned expert in nonwoven fabrics: He’s the architect behind the essential technology in N95 respirators, required by OSHA when working in dusty environments to remove at least 95% of submicron particles, and recommended by the World Health Organization to protect against SARS, bird and swine flu, and other airborne diseases. In addition to respirators, Dr. Tsai’s technology has been widely used by industries for over three decades in products such as HVAC filters and medical face masks. He holds 12 U.S. patents and has secured 20 commercial license agreements and counting; in 2019 alone, UTRF non-exclusively licensed Dr. Tsai’s most recent technology to four companies globally.

Dr. Peter Tsai receives the Innovator Hall of Fame Award.

The Innovator Hall of Fame Award is UTRF’s highest honor, recognizing career-spanning excellence in innovation and commercialization. It’s presented to a UT researcher who has consistently pursued commercialization and market success for significant university-based technologies with dogged enthusiasm and energy. The award is sponsored by a generous gift from the B.Otto and Kathleen Wheeley Foundation.

“The Innovator Hall of Fame Award is reserved for the University of Tennessee’s most extraordinary researchers, who are proactively advancing their innovations to the marketplace where they can change lives for the better,” said Dr. Stacey Patterson, UTRF president and University of Tennessee vice president for Research, Outreach and Economic Development.

For a complete list of award recipients, please see our awards program.