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By Alex Piazza
The University of Michigan reported $1.62 billion in research volume during Fiscal Year 2020, which led to important advancements in areas ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to driverless vehicle technology, social justice and carbon neutrality.
U-M was able to maintain the same total research volume as FY19 during a fiscal year in which the novel coronavirus prompted the university to temporarily ramp down noncritical laboratory research. The university also received 1,918 new research awards between July 1, 2019 and June 30 — the largest being a $31 million federal grant that supports research on the restoration of dental, oral and craniofacial tissues lost to disease, injury or congenital disorders.
“Researchers across our three campuses have truly embraced this vision of serving the world through research and scholarship, using their passion and expertise to address critical challenges with broad societal impact,” said Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine.
“When the pandemic hit, many of our researchers quickly transitioned their work to identify treatments for the virus, improve personal protective equipment and explore how COVID-19 has exacerbated health inequities within our communities. Beyond this pandemic, the university community will continue to exercise its commitment to catalyzing research and scholarship, developing innovative technologies and strengthening the economy.”
The federal government remains the largest sponsor of U-M research, and during FY20, agencies supported 54 percent of the university’s research volume. With $887 million in federally sponsored research over the last fiscal year, U-M researchers led projects that span Great Lakes sustainability and racial health disparities to the arts and humanities.
Researchers across the three U-M campuses generated $576 million in research under contract with the National Institutes of Health, a federal agency that funds 2,497 U-M active projects to address the causes, diagnoses, preventions and cures of human disease. The university also reported $91 million in annual research expenditures from the National Science Foundation and $77 million from the Department of Defense.
Institutional investment of U-M research during FY20 totaled $548 million, which funded research-related infrastructure projects, sparked multidisciplinary initiatives and aided in faculty retention efforts. The university also reported $113 million in industry sponsored research during FY20, part of which supported a project that aims to enhance the landscape of energy assistance programs statewide.
As part of its commitment to translating research from the laboratory to the marketplace, U-M research spurred a record 31 startups and 522 inventions during FY20. Among those startups is a company that designs and operates networked fleets of autonomous robotic delivery vehicles.
The U-M research enterprise also plays a critical role in strengthening the economy by creating new jobs and driving global competitiveness. The university contributed $5.6 billion to the national economy through vendor contracts and subcontracts between FY02 and FY19, $1.8 billion of which was spent in Michigan, according to the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science.
“When our world needs knowledge and understanding most, University of Michigan faculty members always rise to the challenge,” President Mark Schlissel said. “I am very proud to be part of a community of scholars who embrace our university’s commitment to serve the public good through research.”