OSU Achieves Research Milestone

Federal agencies account for the bulk of OSU's research grants and contracts. (Chart courtesy of the OSU Research Office)

November 4, 2009

As national competition heats up, OSU reaches $252 million record

By Todd Simmons

In Brief

Competitive research grants and contracts awarded to Oregon State University exceeded $252 million for the first time in 2009. Funds support work in fields such as energy, natural resources, the environment and public health. Research results are creating the basis for new companies in solar power, wave energy, food systems and computer software. These accomplishments are making OSU a university of choice for Oregon's best and brightest students. 

Oregon State University research efforts attracted more than $252 million in external funding in 2008-09, a funding record, and one of many areas in which OSU's burgeoning research and scholarship efforts expanded the university's impact on Oregon and the scientific community.

That quarter-billion in research support is one of the key findings in "OSU & Oregon: Recovery, Powered by Orange," a white paper released by the university in September that details OSU's singular and growing contributions to Oregon.

"The record $252.16 million in external funding earned for OSU researchers marks an increase of $21 million over the previous year, itself a record, and growth of nearly $100 million since 2003," says OSU President Ed Ray. "That quarter-billion in external funding includes nearly $190 million in federal funding from a broad range of agencies - the most competitive arena for research support. The success of our faculty and student researchers in the midst of what was a challenging budget year otherwise is both breathtaking and inspiring. I'm enormously proud of their work and what it means for OSU's future."

Recovery Act Not Included

Boding well for OSU's continuing growth is the fact that virtually no American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) research funds were available last year. Federal agencies began to award ARRA monies, for the most part, after the new fiscal year began in July. As of Sept. 30, more than $34.9 million in Recovery Act grants for research and for faculty and student support had been received by OSU for 2009-10.

The past year in research funding included the following:

  • Six federal agencies supported OSU research at levels of $10 million or more, led by the National Science Foundation with cumulative awards totaling nearly $39 million. Other top agencies included the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Commerce, Energy and Health and Human Services.

  • Technology transfer efforts resulted in more than $2.71 million in licensing receipts for the university, up from $2.57 million last year and triple what it earned annually just 10 years ago. Since 2003, OSU licenses have generated nearly $15 million in revenue.

  • OSU research efforts attracted important national centers to Oregon in 2008-09, including the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, the NOAA Marine Operations Center and Pacific Fleet, and key components of the Energy Frontier Research Center and Ocean Observatories Initiative projects.

  • Spinoff companies are emerging in greater numbers from the university each year - including Azuray Technologies, Mtek Energy Solutions, Home Dialysis Plus, Precision Plant Systems and Inpria Corporation. Those companies and others lend dynamism and opportunities for employment to the Oregon economy.

As President Ray and others have noted, such progress reflects the growing strength and impact of OSU's academic programs, which include an expanding array of national rankings for disciplines ranging from Geosciences to Nuclear Engineering to Wildlife Science. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, in fact, classifies OSU as one of only three Pacific Northwest campuses (in addition to the University of Washington and Washington State) to hold its highest rating for research universities.

Path to Success

The national stature of those programs has helped to make OSU the university of choice for Oregon's best and brightest students. In 2008, for instance, 38 percent of Oregon's accredited high schools sent at least one student ranked No. 1 in his or her class to OSU, which also attracts more Portland-area valedictorians than any other college campus.

"Even in times of adversity, such as we experienced last year with the economic downturn and serious challenges by way of decreased state funding, OSU managed to chart its own path to success, as this university always seems to do," says Ray. "That's great for our students, for this state's economy and for Oregon, and gives us a great sense of hope."

Ray plans to build on these achievements in his vision for OSU. In 2025, he expects the university to double its current research level to $500 to $600 million per year. To achieve that increase, which is consistent with OSU's growth over the past 15 years, OSU would double its tenure-track faculty and accommodate 30,000 to 35,000 students, compared to nearly 22,000 on the campus today.