Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NSF ranks U-M first in research spending at
public universities

The university ranks first in research and development spending among the nation’s public universities and colleges, according to the latest rankings from the National Science Foundation.

The rankings, announced by the agency on Monday, show that U-M moved up two positions — passing the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison — to take the top slot among public universities.

It’s the 11th time in the past 25 years that U-M has held the top research position among the nation’s public universities. Among all U.S. universities and colleges — both public and private — U-M moved from fourth to second place, trailing only Johns Hopkins University.

“We’re there because we earned it, one grant at a time,” says Stephen Forrest, vice president for research.

“Our faculty has really risen to the challenge,” Forrest says. “And one reason they’ve been so successful is that they realize they are helping to change the economic prospects of our state, which has been so hard hit.”

Each year, the NSF ranks hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities based on the amount each school spends on research and development. The latest NSF rankings cover fiscal year 2009. That year marked the first time research spending at U-M exceeded $1 billion, totaling $1.01 billion.

In FY 2009, for the first time in the past 25 years, U-M received more federal research funding — $636.2 million — than any other U.S. public university, according to NSF records analyzed by Russell Fleming, division controller for financial reporting.

U-M research spending increased 14.9 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2009, according to NSF. In fiscal year 2010, which ended June 30, U-M research expenditures rose another 12 percent to $1.14 billion. The FY 2010 numbers will be included in next year’s NSF annual report.

“Our research enterprise is growing faster than the programs at the other top public universities, and that explains why we’ve moved to the top of the list,” Forrest says. “We’re on a roll, and we expect it to continue.”

U-M last held the top spot for public university R&D spending in fiscal year 2005. It held that distinction every year from 1991 through 1999.

Forrest noted that the research spending totals for Johns Hopkins University include the school’s federally funded Applied Physics Laboratory, which recorded $978 million in total R&D expenditures in fiscal year 2009. If APL funding were subtracted from the Johns Hopkins research total, U-M would be ranked first among all U.S. universities and colleges, public and private.

U-M research runs the gamut from fundamental studies to applied science that leads to new, patentable technologies. During the last decade, U-M has helped launch 93 startup companies based on U-M technology, and roughly three-quarters of those businesses are in the greater Ann Arbor area, according to Tech Transfer.

Last year, U-M helped launch 10 new startups and licensed 97 technologies to industry, while U-M researchers reported 290 new inventions.

“Launching 93 new startups since 2001 places the University of Michigan well within the top 10 U.S. universities in that category,” says Ken Nisbet, executive director of Tech Transfer. “Those numbers say to me that we’re doing it the right way.”

Recent U-M inventions and their creators will be highlighted at the annual Celebrate Invention reception, 3-6 p.m. today, at the Michigan League Ballroom. The event recognizes U-M researchers who reported an invention, were awarded a patent, or participated in a license agreement in FY 2010, which ended June 30.

NSF’s R&D spending totals and U-M’s internal research-spending reports don’t always match because the two entities use different reporting standards.