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U Research Exceeds $300 Million University Means More Jobs and Business for Utah’s Economy

July 19, 2004 — The University of Utah set a new record for collecting research grants, fellowships and financial aid by crossing the $300 million threshold during the 2003-2004 fiscal year that ended June 30.

More than three-fourths of the $309,301,309 came from the federal government, and most went into Utah’s economy.

Exceeding $300 million for the first time “is something we hoped would happen this year, and we are delighted we achieved that goal,” says Ron Pugmire, associate vice president for research and a professor of chemical engineering and chemistry. “For the state of Utah, it means there is a tremendous amount of science and technology being developed at the university, and that’s where the future of economic growth lies.”

The total of $309,301,309 in research grants, fellowships and financial aid represents almost an 8 percent increase over the $286,724,452 collected during the 2002-2003 fiscal year, and is more than twice the $142,814,715 the university collected a decade earlier during the 1993-1994 fiscal year, according to figures from the university’s Office of Sponsored Projects.

Such a doubling of research funds “tells us that our hiring and nurturing of faculty is successful and contributes to the Utah economy,” says Ray Gesteland, the university’s vice president for research. “The important thing to realize is that most research money that comes to the university flows into Utah’s economy. It is used for jobs, salaries, the buying of goods and services.”

Pugmire says most of the $309 million “is federal money that is brought into Utah and spent in Utah. It means jobs for researchers. It supports graduate students and undergraduate students working on research projects. It buys equipment and it supports research facilities that the state doesn’t have to pay for. And there are companies that spin out of the university based on technology that’s developed here. That creates local jobs.”

Figures from the Office of Sponsored Research show the $309 million came from these sources:

— Research grants from federal agencies — $197,284,973 (64 percent).

— Federal “flowdown,” or money the university received in the form of subcontracts from other universities or agencies with federal grants — $25,883,955 (8 percent).

— State of Utah contracts or grants for research or services (excluding patient care) — $8,460,068 (3 percent).

— Other non-federal government sources — $409,706 (a fraction of 1 percent).

— Private sector (commercial and nonprofit) sources — $57,689,017 (19 percent). Pugmire noted that most research universities only get about 10 percent of their research funds from private sources.

— Fellowships and financial aid (mostly from federal sources) – $19,573,590 (6 percent).

The University of Utah is the state’s major research university, and one that ranks high nationally given the state’s relatively small population size. In 2003, the University of Utah ranked 27th nationally overall and 27th in total federal research funds among 119 major public research universities, according to the most recent report from the Lombardi Program on Measuring University Performance.

Research at the university is wide-ranging, with its scientists gaining renown in fields such as genetics, computer science and imaging, engineering, the basic sciences and many other fields. Research at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center helps improve the health and well-being of Utah residents, beyond the direct contributions the university makes in training roughly two-thirds of Utah’s physicians and pharmacists, and in treating patients at the University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, Moran Eye Center and Huntsman Cancer Hospital.

Technologies developed by university researchers and licensed to entrepreneurs have created thousands of new jobs at companies in University of Utah Research Park and elsewhere in Utah. They include Myriad Genetics, Inc., Evans & Sutherland, NPS Pharmaceuticals, Idaho Technology, Inc. and Sarcos Inc.

Students trained by university researchers go on to become industry leaders, as is apparent in the computer industry, where University of Utah graduates include Alan Kay, the father of the personal computer; Jim Clark, who co-founded Silicon Graphics Inc. and Netscape; Nolan Bushnell, the father of the video game industry who co-founded Atari; John Warnock, who co-founded Adobe Systems Inc.; and Ed Catmull, co-founder and president of Pixar Animation Studios, known for films such as “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo.”