Purdue positioned to increase research revenue for Indiana

February 2010

As anyone who has ever tried to live on a budget knows, you can manage it two ways: reduce expenses and/or increase income.

While Indiana's colleges and universities cut budgets in light of state revenue shortfalls, we also need to look for ways to increase income. For Indiana's major research universities, one way is by increasing research grants.

Although competition for funding is intense, the payoff for Indiana is significant. Purdue already has doubled its research funding since 2000 and now is laying the groundwork to expand it again. Purdue's strategic plan has the goal to reach $600 million by 2014. In addition to bringing in revenue for the university, for every $1 million in expenditures related to research awards, Purdue historically supports six or seven full-time equivalent employees.

The more funding Purdue's scholars bring in, the more we are able to draw top faculty researchers to Purdue, whose bright ideas, in turn, garner more research funding. 

How can we set ourselves up to attract research funding? If you look at Purdue's strengths, at funding opportunities and at the global challenges facing our region, state and nation, the path is relatively clear.

First, we need to consider what research is being funded by government agencies and external sources and match Purdue's strengths with those opportunities. Currently, we are emphasizing our research activities in the following areas, which also align with federal funding initiatives such as:
        * Cyber and information technology
        * Energy, the environment and sustainability
        * Life and health sciences
        * Security, defense and space sciences
        * STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics education

To increase our competitiveness in both research and learning, we have realigned our existing academic areas in the health sciences to create a new College of Health and Human Sciences. This realignment will bring together health sciences that include disciplines such as foods and nutrition, health and kinesiology, health science, psychology, audiology and speech sciences, nursing, and more. 

The new organizational structure will promote new collaborations like others at Purdue, a second advantage in garnering large interdisciplinary grants. While individual disciplines are the foundation of a university, bringing together multiple disciplines is required to solve many of the complex problems underlying today's global issues. Consequently, when we apply for research grants, we need to demonstrate our ability to ensure such collaborations. Our researchers need to pool together talents from various disciplines of the university - and from other universities - to form a team with a broad range of expertise capable of tackling the grand challenges.

To foster such ventures, Purdue works closely with many of Indiana's other great institutions of higher education. Additionally, Purdue's Discovery Park - celebrating its ninth anniversary - provides the research facilities and specialized laboratory equipment to bring these researchers together to tackle those complex challenges.

Third, we need often need a learning component to land the large awards. How will we involve undergraduate students? How will we inspire students in K-12 to follow careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, known as STEM? 

To facilitate this, Purdue created the Discovery Learning Research Center – creating a center to advance research that revolutionizes learning in the STEM disciplines. The center's facilities feature unique, flexible spaces designed for educational research unlike any available nationwide. The spaces also incorporate technologies and structural features that allow for collection of research data about the learning experience. A strong foundation in the STEM disciplines is critical to the success of the next generation of leaders.

Fourth, we need a pathway to bring discoveries to market. This is accomplished in two ways: through our entrepreneurship programs and our technology parks. Companies in the Purdue Research Parks and its technology centers along the I-65 corridor now employ 3,700 people and provide the support to help new ventures succeed and grow. They represent a $200 million investment Purdue has made in Indiana.

Normalizing our commercialization activity relative to our total research expenditures during 2007-2008, Purdue ranked first in the Big Ten in invention disclosures, new patent applications, and license and option agreements. These efforts also created a dozen new companies for Indiana.

Expanding our research base creates jobs, Indiana knowledge-based businesses and world-class graduates. It's smart business for Indiana.

By Richard O. Buckius, Vice President for Research, Purdue University

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