Total Research Revenues Reach All-time High at UNC

UNC’s total amount of research grants and contracts in fiscal year 2006 grew to a new high of $593 million.

The total represents a 2.4 percent increase from fiscal 2005’s $579 million, and it’s more than twice the amount the University received as recently as 1997.

The growth comes at a time when the National Institutes of Health, which historically has accounted for slightly more than half of all research funding at UNC, experienced a cut in appropriations in 2006 with no increase expected for 2007.

In fall 2005, Carolina received the greatest number of NIH “Roadmap for Medical Research” awards in the country – eight of 21. These awards fund interdisciplinary research, such as that performed by UNC’s centers, and focus on medical issues that the institutes, collectively, think are the most important and complex. Carolina’s total funding through this program, in its second year, totals $15.5 million.

While the total research activity helps UNC maintain its position among the nation’s top research universities, the numbers reflect one shortcoming. Carolina lags far behind most research universities in the country, public and private, in the amount of research funding received from private industry. Only 4 percent of the 2006 revenues came from this sector.

“UNC has positioned itself as a leader. We have proven our ability to contribute to the economy and to science,” said Tony Waldrop ’74, vice chancellor for research and economic development. “But attracting more private funding is one area that is essential to our continued growth. We’re committed to doing that, in part with the successful launch of Carolina North. Having a research campus where interdisciplinary academic research collaborates with private industry will dramatically affect our ability to achieve even greater success to benefit the people of North Carolina and beyond.”

Health-related research continues to receive the bulk of research dollars, with the medical school bringing in $288 million in fiscal 2006, according to data maintained by UNC’s Office of Sponsored Research. The School of Public Health received $61 million, and the College of Arts and Sciences received $60 million. Interdisciplinary research centers, institutes and other units that do not fall under one particular school accounted for $132 million. Funding sources include state and federal agencies, industry and foundations and nonprofit organizations.

The growth of research funding also translates into economic growth for the state. Data that reflect the economic impact of technological development include the number of patents, spin-off companies, jobs and licensed technology. In 2006, UNC was awarded 21 patents; started five new companies, bringing the total to 35; licensed 43 inventions and received a total of $2.2 million in licensed technology.

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