…In External Funding, World-Class Research, and Economic Development

External Funding/Research

  • A key measure of our excellence is the continued success in attracting record external research funding.

Iowa’s Public Universities are consistently strong in attracting external funding, particularly federal and State funds to support world-class research that benefits Iowa, the nation, and the world. This includes significant funding from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Energy, Agriculture, and Education, among many other agencies, to support a broad range of research projects that draw on extensive areas of university expertise. These funding sources are restricted to research activities only and cannot be used as general university operating funds. They cannot offset the universities’ need for State appropriations and tuition revenue.

In FY 2010, Iowa’s Public Universities and Special Schools reported a total external funding record of $896.4 million, solidifying a trend that has produced 83% growth since FY 2000. This includes an increase of $121 million, or 15.6%, from FY 2009 alone, which is especially impressive given the global financial crisis. These remarkable numbers speak to the recognized strength of research programs and faculty at Iowa’s Public Universities.

UNI Logo

UNI’s Business and Community Services program provides vital support to Iowa businesses and communities in all 99 counties. Some of the program’s many resources for Iowans include MyEntre.Net, Iowa’s online community serving more than 8,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs; the UNI Metal Casting Center, linking nationally recognized foundry research and technology to private sector applications; and the National Ag-Based Lubricant Center providing research and testing in support of the commercialization of bio-based lubricants to expand market opportunities for Iowa’s agricultural industry.

UNI is a notable recipient of external funding for the study of improvements in education. The Iowa Department of Education, through its partnership with UNI and other national universities, reported the receipt of more than $9 million in Teacher Quality Partnership ARRA grant funds. This initiative to raise student achievement by improving the quality of teaching will be used in Iowa to study reforms in traditional university teacher preparation and improvements in learning and achievement in high-need schools.

Reading Recovery

UNI also received funding for establishment of the Center for Disability Studies in Literacy, Language and Learning, to explore, promote and support literacy and communication development of children with significant disabilities. And the UNI Reading Recovery Center won a $3.1 million “Investing in Innovations” grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support intense literacy assistance for Iowa first graders who struggle to read. The grant will allow UNI to prepare 50 new Reading Recovery teachers and provide intervention to 2,250 of Iowa’s first graders each year for the next five years.

ISU Logo

ISU reported record sponsored funding of $388.2 million, a significant increase of 27% over the FY 2009 record of $305.2 million. This included $20.2 million in ARRA grants. Nearly 62% of the total was for research projects.


Professor Martin Spalding

A research project supported by ARRA funds and led by Martin Spalding, professor and chair of the ISU Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, is focused on science at the center of America’s energy future. The research group won a three-year, $4.37 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study how a genetically manipulated microalga could be used to efficiently produce advanced biofuels.

Iowa Logo

The UI reported record sponsored research funding of $466.5 million, an increase of 8.6% over the FY 2009 record of $429.5 million. This included $40.8 million in ARRA grants. At the close of FY 2010, the UI was ranked 20th among public universities in federally financed expenditures for research and development by the National Science Foundation, and it ranked 13th in award data among public universities by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Dean P. Barry Butler with engineering students

P. Barry Butler, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa, received $1.6 million of a total $3 million grant from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence for the study, “Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND).”

Research programs also provide tremendous benefits to our students, both graduate and undergraduate, with opportunities to enhance their learning by working directly with faculty investigators. This provides a one-on-one mentoring experience for students as they actively participate in significant research projects.

Student ResearchEach spring, the Research in the Capitol event features research by outstanding undergraduate students at Iowa’s Public Universities, demonstrating to legislators and the general public the connection between research and education at all levels.

Research In Capital

Lisa Gillette, UI economics and finance major,
and State Representative Bob Kressig, at
2010 Research In the Capitol Event
State support is critical to fueling the economic engine that is Iowa’s Public Universities.

Research at Iowa’s Public Universities generates a wealth of intellectual property and technical expertise each year. Our world-class research creates knowledge, innovations and expertise available to Iowa businesses and entrepreneurs who create jobs and income for the state. In FY 2010, the revenue generated by Iowa companies as a direct result of university technologies totaled $62.7 million.

These results depend on our well-established research parks and business incubator programs—which in FY 2010 supported 135 companies employing 2,829 Iowans—Small Business Development Centers, and other centers and institutes at Iowa’s Public Universities, all providing critical outreach and services to Iowa communities, businesses, and entrepreneurs.

While virtually all support for our research comes from federal funds, moving innovations and expertise into the hands of Iowans depends upon State funding to leverage external investment. However, State funding for the universities’ economic development programs declined 58% between FY 2001 and FY 2010.  The Grow Iowa Values Fund, which authorized $5 million in special economic development appropriations per year beginning in FY 2005 through FY 2015, has been critical in filling this gap, but it also suffered from State budget cuts of 10% in FY 2010, and more than 20% for FY 2011.

State support is critical to maintaining Access, Affordability, and Student Success at Iowa’s Public Universities for our future graduates and Iowa citizens.

The Board of Regents is extremely proud of Iowa’s Public Universities’ contributions to Iowa economic growth. Our economic impact on the State of Iowa in FY 2009 alone totaled between $8 and $9 billion – outstanding evidence of significant contributions from external research dollars; our more than 71,000 students and 45,000 employees; our 210,000 alumni, including many of Iowa’s top professionals; and the hundreds of thousands of visitors to our campuses each year.

Our most important economic contribution, however, is a cadre of highly educated, productive citizens and leaders for Iowa, the nation, and the world. In the 2009-2010 academic year, Iowa’s Public Universities graduated 15,322 students. Approximately 60% of this total, or more than 9,200 students, will work or continue their education in Iowa.

© 2011 Board of Regents, State of Iowa

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