Higher education

Federal funding to University of Iowa, Iowa State up in 2016

'They are upping their game'

Two students sit on the grass in front of Curtiss Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Two students sit on the grass in front of Curtiss Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Both University of Iowa and Iowa State University received more federal funding in the 2016 budget year — primarily for research — even though those dollars are still “tightly constrained.”

UI landed $240.4 million in the budget year that ended June 30 from federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. That’s a 4 percent increase over last year’s total of $231.9 million.

ISU meanwhile brought in $229.5 million from federal departments like energy, agriculture, and health and human services — up 2.5 percent from last year’s $223.9 million.

“Federal funds are still pretty tightly constrained, but it’s a mark of the excellence of our faculty and their ability to compete successfully for federal funds,” said Sarah Nusser, ISU vice president for research. “We also are fortunate that many facets of our research portfolio intersect with international grand challenges and scientific advancements.”

UI, Iowa State, and University of Northern Iowa on Friday reported their total external funding dollars for the most recent budget year. UI saw a slight drop in total dollars — which includes non-federal sources — from $565.2 million in the 2015 budget year to $551.9 million last year. ISU saw a slight uptick in total external funding from $424.9 million last year to $425.8 million — setting a record.

And UNI held mostly steady from its $38.6 million last year, landing $38.7 million in sponsored grants, awards, and other funding in the 2016 budget year.

Unlike their federal funding receipts, both UI and ISU saw dips in non-federal funding — which includes state and private donations. But both said they’ve seen an overall upward trend in external funding.


UI, for example, reported $506.3 million in total external funding for the 2013 budget year — meaning it’s seen a 9 percent jump. ISU’s external funding has spiked 30 percent from $326.4 million in 2013 to this year’s $425.8 million.

“The bar is being raised a little bit,” Nusser said. “The funding has gone up dramatically over the last few years … the fact that we are right in there still is extremely positive.”

The majority of UI’s external funding goes into research — $437.9 million, or 79 percent. About 59 percent of ISU’s external funding goes to research — $252.5 million this year. UI’s total research-related funding dipped slightly from $443 million last year, while ISU saw a 12 percent uptick from $225.7 million.

Daniel Reed, UI vice president for research and economic development, said one-time “blips” can skew numbers — like $16 million the university got in 2015 from a one-time land sale disbursement. Without that bump last year, Reed said, UI’s 2016 total would have been up.

And, he said, the increase in federal dollars is impressive with more researchers nationally appealing to the stringent funding sources.

“It’s certainly true that the federal climate still is really challenging,” he said. “So this is more a sign that faculty are more successful in competing in a difficult climate. They are upping their game.”

Among the university projects heralded for receiving funding in 2016:

UI’s Hardin Library secured a five-year grant for $6.5 million from the National Institutions of Health for its designation as a Regional Medical Library in the National Network of Libraries. In the role, the library will provide U.S. health professionals with access to biomedical information and improve public access so both citizens and physicians can make informed health care decisions.

Lori Branch, a UI associate professor of English, landed a $139,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to colead a four-week seminar titled, “Postsecular Studies and the Rise of the English Novel.”


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The UI startup iotaMotion won $225,000 through the National Science Foundation to develop prototype of a non-invasive device to improve hearing for about 100,000 people in the United States and more than 300,000 around with world with cochlear implants.

At Iowa State, Adina Howe, an assistant professor of agriculture and Biosystems engineering, received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study antimicrobial resistance and animal production systems.

Walter Suza, an ISU adjunct assistant professor in agronomy, joined an international coalition to improve global food scrutiny through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

An institute with the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation funded three Iowa State projects in advanced manufacturing.


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