For the first time in the University’s history, annual new awards for research have exceeded the $1 billion mark. The record amount in new grants, contracts and awards received in the fiscal year that concluded June 30 comes largely from sources outside of North Carolina — primarily from federal research agencies and industry and nonprofit organizations.
Overall, the University received more than $1.048 billion in new research awards during the year. Funding from these awards is used by faculty experts, staff and students to conduct research projects and experiments for external sponsors. Research at Carolina drives discoveries, innovation and breakthroughs in everything from cancer research to clean water, criminal justice reform and treatments for COVID-19.
“No single source accounts for our remarkable success this year,” said Vice Chancellor for Research Terry Magnuson. “We saw growth in our research funding from almost all sponsor sources and within most of our schools, the College of Arts and Sciences, and centers and institutes. Despite the challenges in the last quarter with ramping down on-campus research, we grew across the board, and this is a tribute to the talent and hard work of our faculty, staff and students.”
Top sponsors of research at Carolina included the National Institutes of Health ($523 million), the National Science Foundation ($53 million), the Department of Health and Human Services ($44 million) and the Department of Defense ($18 million).
Among the examples of large, collaborative projects funded were a $51.7 million award from the NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to develop a new center for back pain research and a $20 million National Science Foundation award to UNC’s Renaissance Computing Institute to build a platform that will provide a testbed for the next generation of internet technology — reimagining how data can be stored, computed and moved through shared infrastructure.
The University’s expertise in a broad range of health, social and environmental sciences makes its research attractive to many external funding agencies and suits it for the study of all angles of infectious diseases. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Carolina’s researchers, scientists and students have prioritized the discovery of solutions to this global health crisis, putting Carolina on a continued track for growth during the current fiscal year.
“While we did receive some funding toward the end of the year for our response to the novel coronavirus and its impact, the majority of our growth came from traditional research,” Magnuson said. “However, we are on track to bring in another $60 [million] to $80 million in funding for our work in many areas related to the COVID-19 pandemic this year.”
Research at Carolina employs more than 10,000 North Carolinians in projects that touch all 100 counties. As most research funding comes from outside of the state, it represents new revenue for North Carolina’s gross state product. Spending on research supports more than 4,000 businesses across the state.