UM research funding hits record $1.4B

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Research funding at the University of Michigan reached a record high last year: $1.39 billion, a 7.2 percent increase over the previous year, officials reported Thursday.

Federal funding makes up about about two-thirds of UM’s research dollars. The Department of Health and Human Services contributed to much of this year’s growth with expenditures increasing 6 percent, to $467 million.

Meanwhile, National Science Foundation funding increased 8.6 percent to $86 million; Department of Defense funding went up 7.8 percent, to $80.5 million; contracts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration increased 19.5 percent, to $52 million; and funding from the Department of Energy rose 4.3 percent, to $40 million.

“As one of the largest and most diverse research universities in the world, U-M plays a significant role both in generating a steady stream of innovative ideas and in educating the people that together underlie the nation’s economic success and quality of life,” said S. Jack Hu, UM vice president for research, in a news release. “The growing investment in U-M research is a measure of the continuing confidence of our sponsors in the value that our faculty and students bring to society.”

Industry-sponsored research also increased to a record high of $85 million, up 8.5 percent from the previous year.

“Industry plays a vital role in university research,” Hu said. “Working with industry not only helps us translate the results of our research into practice, but it also helps us better prepare our students for the challenges they will face in their future careers.”

Research often translates into the marketplace. Last year, UM researchers reported 428 new inventions, the fourth consecutive year of more than 400, along with 135 new patents. The university’s Office of Technology Transfer also signed a record 173 license and option agreements with companies seeking to commercialize UM discoveries. Additionally, UM’s Tech Transfer Venture Center launched 12 startups.

Among the major developments in research in the last year was the opening of Mcity, a full-scale “mini-city” designed to rigorously and efficiently test emerging technologies for connected and automated vehicles, including driverless vehicles, in a controlled environment.

UM also launched a $100 million Data Science Initiative to develop the potential of “big data.”