URI sets research grant record

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$85.5 million in awards helps boost economy

KINGSTON, R.I. – August 3, 2009 – The University of Rhode Island was awarded more than $85.5 million in research grants and contracts during fiscal year 2009, the most it has ever received and almost $20 million more than it was awarded the previous year.

The University also submitted more grant proposals than ever before (744) that requested more funding than ever ($414 million). Given the typical six-month delay between proposal submission and award announcement, this means that next year’s funding level will probably be even higher.

“We’re incredibly proud of the success we have had in attracting funding to the University,” said Peter Alfonso, vice president for research and economic development. “It’s a great reflection on our faculty, both younger faculty who have matured and are winning big awards and our senior faculty who continue to produce good work.”

Alfonso said that the greater funding success can also be attributed to efforts to enhance University and state policies and procedures that improve the climate for research on campus. For example, dedicated staff members in the URI Research Office serve as liaisons with faculty members to help them identify funding opportunities, prepare proposals, and submit them to appropriate agencies.

In addition, the University worked with the Rhode Island General Assembly and the Board of Governors for Higher Education to adapt purchasing policies that make it easier and faster for faculty to purchase equipment and establish research laboratories paid for by grant funds.

The establishment of the URI Research Foundation has also improved the success rate of grant proposals by engaging faculty members with the private sector to determine what research is a priority in the marketplace.

Alfonso said that there is a strong relationship between university research and the regional economy.

“That $85.5 million is money that the state would not have had this year without the research enterprise at URI,” he said. “And the total economic impact of those grants is probably twice that, when you consider the equipment and supplies purchased, the people we hire and the things they buy, and the taxes that will be paid.”

The majority of the grants awarded to URI in fiscal year 2009 were for research conducted by faculty in the Graduate School of Oceanography ($28.7 million), the College of Arts and Sciences ($11 million), the College of the Environment and Life Sciences ($22.2 million), and the College of Pharmacy ($7.2 million). Included were major grants to Pharmacy Professor Zahir Shaikh to expand the state’s biomedical research network; Chemistry Professor Jimmy Oxley for the Center for Excellence in Explosive Detection; and Molecular Biology Professor Annie De Groot for research to develop vaccines against infectious diseases.

Agencies of the federal government, especially the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, provided 73 percent of the funds awarded to URI during the year, with state, foundation and private sector funds making up the balance.

“This year wasn’t just a fluke; we also set a record for grants awarded in any two consecutive years,” said Alfonso. “We are focused on being a fully-engaged research university, and we have a target of receiving $100 million in annual research funding and expenditures. We are a making great progress toward that goal.”

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