CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University research funding reached $308.9 million, its highest level ever, in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A near doubling of revenues from licensing patented technologies and an 8.5 percent increase in competitive federal funding fueled OSU research on a range of projects including advanced ocean-going research vessels, the health impacts of pollution and sustainable materials for high-speed computing.
“This is a phenomenal achievement. I've seen how OSU research is solving global problems and providing innovations that mean economic growth for Oregon and the nation,” said Cynthia Sagers, OSU’s vice president for research who undertook her duties on August 31. “OSU’s research performance in the last year is amazing, given that federal funds are so restricted right now.”
The overall economic and societal impact of OSU’s research enterprise exceeds $670 million, based on an analysis of OSU’s research contributions to the state and global economy that followed a recent economic study of OSU’s fiscal impact conducted by ECONorthwest.
Technology licensing almost doubled in the last year alone, from just under $6 million in 2014 to more than $10 million this year. Leading investments from business and industry were patented Oregon State innovations in agriculture, advanced materials and nuclear technologies.
OSU researchers exceeded the previous record of $288 million, which the university achieved in 2010. Although federal agencies provided the bulk of funding, most of the growth in OSU research revenues over the past five years stems from nonprofit organizations and industry.
Since 2010, total private-sector funding from sponsored contracts, research cooperatives and other sources has risen 60 percent — from $25 million to more than $40 million in 2015. Oregon State conducts research with multinationals such as HP, Nike and Boeing as well as with local firms such as Benchmade Knife of Oregon City, Sheldon Manufacturing of Cornelius and NuScale Power of Corvallis.
By contrast, federal research grants in 2015 were only 0.2 percent higher than those received in 2010, a year in which American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds gave university research a one-time shot in the arm across the country. According to the National Science Foundation, federal agency obligations for research have dropped from a high of $36 billion in 2009 to $29 billion in 2013, the last year for which cumulative figures are available. The Department of Health and Human Services accounted for more than half of that spending.
“We’ve worked hard to diversify our research portfolio,” said Ron Adams, who retired as interim vice president for research at the end of August. “But it’s remarkable that our researchers have succeeded in competing for an increase in federal funding. This speaks to the success of our strategic initiatives and our focus on clusters of excellence.”
Economic impact stems in part from new businesses launched this year through the Oregon State University Advantage program. Among them are:
- OnBoard Dynamics, a Bend company designing a natural-gas powered vehicle engine that can be fueled from home
- Valliscor, a Corvallis company that manufactures ultra-pure chemicals
- eChemion, a Corvallis company that develops and markets technology to extend battery life
Altogether, 15 new companies have received mentoring assistance from Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator program, part of the state-funded Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN. Six new companies are working with the Advantage program this fall.
Additional economic impact stems from the employment of students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty. According to the OSU Research Office, about a quarter of OSU undergraduates participate in research projects, many with stipends paid by grant funds. In addition, grants support a total of 843 graduate research positions and 165 post-doctoral researchers.
The College of Agricultural Sciences received the largest share of research grants at Oregon State with $49.4 million last year, followed by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at $39 million and the College of Engineering at $37 million. The College of Science saw a 170 percent increase in research funding to $26.7 million, its largest total ever and the biggest rise among OSU colleges. Among the largest grants received in FY15 were:
- $8 million from the NSF to the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (College of Science) for new high-speed information technologies
- $4 million from the Department of Energy to reduce barriers to the deployment of ocean energy systems (College of Engineering)
- $4 million from US Agency for International Development to the AquaFish Innovation Lab (College of Agricultural Sciences) for global food security
- $3.5 million from the USDA for experiential learning to reduce obesity (College of Public Health and Human Sciences)
- $2.3 million from the NSF for the ocean observing initiative (College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences)
- $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for school readiness in early childhood (OSU Cascades)
Editor’s Note: FY15 research totals for OSU colleges and OSU-Cascades are posted online.
College of Agricultural Sciences: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/story/osu%E2%80%99s-college-agricultural-sciences-receives-494-million-research-grants
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/features/funding/
College of Education: http://education.oregonstate.edu/research-and-outreach
College of Engineering: http://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy15-research-funding-highlights
College of Forestry: http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/research/college-forestry-receives-near-record-grant-awards-fy-2015
College of Liberal Arts: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/cla-research/2015-research-summary
College of Pharmacy: http://pharmacy.oregonstate.edu/grant_information
College of Public Health and Human Sciences: http://health.oregonstate.edu/research
College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2015/08/record-year-for-research-funding/
College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/research-highlights