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U Research Tops One-third Billion Dollars

Aug. 4, 2009 – The University of Utah collected a record $354.7 million in research funding during the 2009 fiscal year, an impressive 16 percent annual increase despite economic recession and only a little help from federal stimulus funds.

“Given these difficult economic times, this is a remarkable increase in funding for the university’s scientific, engineering and medical research,” says University of Utah President Michael K. Young.

“Most of this money comes from outside Utah, so it directly fuels our state’s economy,” he adds. “This research money provides laboratory jobs, fosters a top-notch education for students and advances the state of knowledge for humanity’s benefit.”

The university’s research funding totaled $354,659,178 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, up more than $49 million from $305,621,461 during the previous fiscal year.

The funding increase “during the most competitive period in at least the last 25 years suggests we have successfully attracted and retained excellent researchers, and that the university provides an environment in which they can do the highest-quality work,” says neurobiologist Tom Parks, the university’s vice president for research.

“The addition of nearly $50 million in research funding last year supports research training experiences for our undergraduate and graduate students,” Parks adds. “Most of the research funds go toward salaries for faculty and staff, who pay taxes in Utah and purchase goods and services here. So every extra dollar in research funding brought in by U faculty supports the research and education missions of the university and strengthens the Utah economy.”

Only $1.5 million of the $49 million increase came from federal “stimulus” money provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, so that “was not a significant factor in the increased funding,” says Parks.

According to Parks and the university’s Office of Sponsored Projects, the fiscal year 2009 increase cannot be attributed to any single funding source or to any research field on campus, so the most likely explanations are:

  • Direct federal funding was up 15 percent to $231,247,104 – and accounted for 65 percent of the university’s research budget – with increases from both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

    The University of Utah also received another $34,480,002 in federal research money that “flowed through” to the U from other grant providers, including other universities, industry, and associations and foundations. So combined direct and indirect federal research funding for fiscal year 2009 rose 14 percent to $265,727,106, accounting for 75 percent of the university’s research budget.

    (Research funding from the state of Utah fell 4 percent during fiscal year 2009 to $19,255,807, which represented 5.4 percent of the university’s total research funding.)

  • Funding from private industry rose 27 percent to $43,654,745, while funding from associations and foundations increased 13 percent to $18,475,604.
  • An increase in the number of faculty submitting grant proposals, including new researchers hired under the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, and an upswing in the success rate of grant proposals submitted by faculty.
  • More proposals being submitted for larger amounts. The number of grant proposals submitted by the faculty was up 14 percent over the 2008 fiscal year, and the dollar amount requested rose by 59 percent to more than $1.5 billion.

Within the university, funding rose significantly in all colleges with external research funding exceeding $5 million annually. They include the School of Medicine and the colleges of engineering, science, mines and Earth sciences, nursing, pharmacy, and social and behavioral science.

Note on Research Funding

For many years, the University of Utah’s annual figures on research funding also included a category known as fellowships and financial aid, which included funding that supported students and postdoctoral fellows engaged in research.

But that category also included funding not related to research, so during fiscal year 2006, the university’s Office of Sponsored Projects dropped fellowship and financial aid from its annual research funding total.

To make historical figures compare “apples and apples,” consider how the fiscal year 2009 research funding figures would be even greater if fellowships and financial aid were included, as they once were.

Fellowships and financial aid for fiscal year 2009 totaled $22,043,443, compared with $19,609,729 for fiscal year 2008. If those numbers are added to what is now considered research funding, the fiscal year 2009 total would $376,702,621, almost a 16 percent increase over $325,231,190 for the previous fiscal year.