Research funding on the rise at Utah State

Old Main

LOGAN – When it comes to research funding, Utah State University has reached another individual record of support. According to USU Vice President of Research Mark McLellan, the $244 million mark in 2016 was the most it has ever received, 4.7 percent more than the year before.

“It was the third year in a row of setting a record high,” McLellan said. “At a time when federal funding is decreasing, we are pretty proud of pulling this off.”

McLellan said the primary source of research funding comes from competitive grants through the federal government; other funding comes from competitive grants through Utah, other states and private industry. He added that the university looks to hire the best researchers available and position them so they can be successful, which he believes has contributed to an increased success in obtaining grants.

“A large amount of that is all competitively awarded, which means you go in pitching your ideas and proposals and sort of elbowing your way into the game and trying to be as competitive and value-producing as you possibly can be,” McLellan said. “We try to train our faculty. We put on a lot of workshops to help give them the best edge they can on making a case for the value.”

The record numbers could keep increasing. According to a recent USU Sponsored Awards Report, proposal numbers from campus were up 13 percent from where they were one year earlier. USU’s Space Dynamics Lab (SDL) could also help up the amount. SDL already accounted for more than $100 million of last year’s funding and now has a $99 million contract with Department of Defense over the next five years.

McLellan said the contract kind of works like a line of credit.

“The Department of Defense can immediately turn to Space Dynamics and say, ‘OK, we have a challenge. We already have an open line of credit to fund you, so this year take 15 million of that or 20 million of that and lets go after this,’” he said.

McLellan said the College of Science and the Quinney College of Natural Resources both had spectacular years.

“As a land grant institution we try not to just do research for research sake, but we try to solve issues and challenges that society faces,” he said. “These two colleges had particularly successful years.”

McLellan said when it comes to spending, USU will finish this year around $175 million, which will likely rank in the low 100s of 2,474 institutions nationwide.

“Those research expenditures are a good metric to compare yourself with,” he said. “If you look at Montana State, they are about 113 million. Wyoming is 51 million, Nevada is 87 million. We are not as high as Colorado State, Oregon State is a little bit bigger than us, but we’re bigger than a few others.”

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