URI research funding jumps 60 percent in three years

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$105 million fuels economic development

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 7, 2010 –The University of Rhode Island received $105 million in research funding during the last fiscal year, an increase of 60 percent from $65 million just three years ago. This is the second year in a row URI has set a record, besting last year’s $86 million.

“Research institutions hope for some growth in external funds every year, maybe 3 to 5 percent. But this is a huge jump and it shows our increasing competitiveness and commitment to research,” said Peter Alfonso, vice president for research and economic development.

“Achieving this fast-paced growth in our research funding is a direct result of the work being done by our faculty, researchers, students, and staff. Our continued success is an acknowledgment of their novel ideas, approaches, and efforts to solve some of today’s most pressing problems,” said Alfonso. “The proposed chemistry center we are asking voters to approve in bond Question 2 on Nov. 2 will help our efforts to attract even more research dollars.”

These funds support the highest levels of research in dozens of disciplines and they boost economic development in Rhode Island as well. In fact, as reported for fiscal year 2008, every $1 in externally funded research the University received that fiscal year contributed $1.67 to the state economy in direct and indirect impacts of the research, including associated increases in jobs, new tax revenues, and purchases of goods and services.

“As the economy is certainly a pressing problem in our state, the direct and indirect results of this funding will help to fuel the economic turnabout here,” Alfonso added.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation provided 71 percent, ($75 million) of the total awarded, with state, foundation, and private sector funds making up the balance. The largest research grant was $3.5 million, awarded as part of an overall $18 million, five-year grant by the NIH for the Rhode Island Network for Excellence in Biomedical and Behavioral Research that is designed to promote the development, coordination, and sharing of research resources and expertise to increase the state’s competitiveness for federal biomedical research funding.

From May 2009 through August 2010, the University received about $28 million from the federal stimulus program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and in September, the University received $20 million from NSF to support the statewide Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

The Graduate School of Oceanography continues to be one of the country’s leading research centers in a broad area of sciences related to oceanography and is responsible for the largest portion of URI’s research funding, this year bringing in $32.5 million. Following oceanography, the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, Pharmacy, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering were the top five funding recipients.

In addition to the $3.5 million biomedical and behavioral science grant, some of the top awards for domestic and global research this year include:

• Rhode Island’s Special Area Management plan to provide a balanced approach to the development and protection of Rhode Island’s ocean-based resources ($2.8 million, R.I. Energy Office)

• An integrated coastal and fisheries management plan for Western Ghana, West Africa, ($2.5 million, U.S. AID), and

• Immunology research and accelerated vaccine development ($2.5 million, NIH).

Alfonso stressed that the University’s success is a result of a team effort to create a new culture for research. Both his office and the Office of the Provost provided a total of $697,000 to encourage, support, and inspire new research by students as well as faculty and staff. This included funding for research and creative activity in the arts, humanities, human and social sciences, and for career enhancement. Awards were also made to support equipment and laboratory infrastructure renovations.