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Institutional R&D Spending Up, No Thanks to Feds

R&D concept 

Funding for institutional research rose ever so slightly in 2013, though the amount covered by the federal government once again took a dip. According to new numbers out from the National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey, university spending in R&D across all fields added up to $67.2 billion in fiscal year 2013. When adjusted for inflation, that represents less than half a percent over spending in 2012. The federal portion of that dropped from $40.2 billion in 2012 to $39.5 billion in 2013.

The overall tally represents totals from 891 degree-granting institutions that spent at least $150,000 in R&D in the previous fiscal year. A subgroup of 645 schools reported at least a million dollars in R&D spending, contributing 99.8 percent of the total R&D expenditures for 2013.

The life sciences dominated R&D spending; $37.6 billion went that direction. That was followed by engineering, which drew $10.7 billion, and physical sciences, which spent $4.6 billion.

The "billion dollar club" has seven members for 2013:

R&D concept

Johns Hopkins has led the United States in higher ed research spending for 35 consecutive years, according to the university. It became the first to reach the billion dollar mark in 2002. The total funding there includes research support from federal agencies as well as foundations, corporations and other sources. The institution earned $22.7 million from some 800 licenses and associated patents and spun off 12 new companies during 2013.

"This ranking indicates that in an ever more challenging environment, Johns Hopkins faculty continues to secure funding for research that saves lives, leads to technological breakthroughs and inspires new views in the arts and humanities," said Denis Wirtz, the university's vice provost for research and co-director of Johns Hopkins' Institute for NanoBioTechnology, in a statement.

UW-Madison reported a $46 million drop in its research spending for the year. However, reported Marsha Mailick, interim vice chancellor for research and graduate education, the university is "holding its own." "The federal government is spending less and the competition for fewer research dollars is fierce," she noted in a statement. "We need to position ourselves strategically to compete successfully for research grants, which is critically important to our ability to generate new knowledge and support Wisconsin residents."

UC San Diego Vice Chancellor for Research, Sandra Brown, said she considers the R&D expenditure rankings a "leading indicator of the impact of the campus' research enterprise." "The university continues to attract these significant investments through the combined efforts of our faculty, staff and researchers," she said in a statement.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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