A new report from the National Science Foundation shows the University of Florida jumped from 14th to 12th in a national ranking of research and development spending at the top 30 public universities in 2011.
Florida also moved up in rankings that include private research institutions like Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University. UF placed 18th in the current report, compared with 21st in 2010. UF is the only university in Florida on the list.
“These expenditures represent dollars entrusted to the University of Florida by sponsors in the public and private sectors for the expressed purpose of creating new knowledge, solving relevant problems and creating innovative technologies that are highly valued for both present and future generations,” said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research. “Our research competitiveness relative to the very best universities in the United States directly reflects the talent and capabilities we have assembled here at UF.”
Specifically, Norton points to advances in health care, engineering, agriculture, and the basic sciences that promise to have significant impact both here in Florida and beyond.
For example, UF research has begun using patients’ personal genetic makeup to more effectively prescribe medication following heart procedures. UF engineers and chemists set a world record in the performance of plastic solar cells, and agricultural researchers discovered the enzyme that improves flavor in ripening tomatoes. In addition, a UF biologist discovered a small African mammal that has the unusual ability to regrow damaged tissue, perhaps leading to new advances in regenerative medicine.
“These are just a few examples of the amazing impact being realized by UF research,” Norton said.
The report states that U.S. research universities spent the majority of their 2011 research dollars, totaling $65.1 billion, on life sciences — namely medicine and agriculture. The next largest field of study was engineering.
“The University of Florida is one of the few institutions with significant strengths in each of the four major areas of sponsored research — the health sciences, agriculture, engineering, and the physical and natural sciences,” Norton said. “This gives us a competitive advantage in staying at the cutting edge of research at the intersections of diverse disciplines.”
UF reported $644 million in research awards for the 2012 fiscal year which ended in June. About two-thirds of that came from federal agencies such as NSF, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. Remaining support came from industry and private foundations. Funding from the private sector rose 24 percent in 2012, helping to offset a nearly 21 percent drop in state and local funding.
“While the majority of sponsored research at UF is fundamental in nature, we do have activity and significant capacity for applied research that is directly relevant to the shorter-term needs of industry,” Norton said. “We view our mission as a public, land-grant university to include both the creation of new fundamental knowledge and the extension of new knowledge to the benefit of society within the state and beyond.”
The statistics are compiled from NSF’s annual Higher Education Research and Development, or HERD, survey, which is the primary source of information on research expenditures at higher education institutions in the United States. The report shows that nationally, universities increased their expenditures for research and development by 4 percent between the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years. UF beat the national average, increasing its research expenditures by 8.5 percent from 2010 to 2011.