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ISU Funding - another record year

External funding breaks half-billion dollars

Research Funding - 2nd highest year

By Mike Krapfl, ISU News Service

Iowa State broke another record in fiscal year 2017, receiving more than $500 million in external funding.

Total external funding rose over the previous record set in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016 -- making it the fourth record year in a row for ISU external funding. The increase from $425.8 million to $503.6 million was due in part to a $93 million gift to the ISU Foundation earlier this year, which largely benefits programs and students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

External funding includes grants, contracts, gifts and cooperative agreements from federal, state and local governments as well as from corporations, nonprofits and other universities for research, academic support, scholarships and fellowships and more.

“External funding supports specific functions of our land-grant mission such as cutting-edge research and scholarships that keep Iowa State accessible,” said Benjamin Allen, interim president. “More than a half-billion dollars in external funding this year reflects a strong belief in the quality of our university to prepare students for the future, produce groundbreaking discoveries, and improve lives across Iowa and the world.”

Research funding from external sponsors totaled $243.7 million, making FY17 the second-highest research funding level behind FY16’s record year of $252.5 million. Iowa State received $168.7 million in research support from federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture and National Institutes of Health. Research funding from non-federal sponsors totaled $74.9 million. Non-federal sponsors include industry, commodity organizations, nonprofit organizations, the state of Iowa and subcontracts from other higher education institutions.

Sarah Nusser, vice president for research, was pleased with this year’s progress toward matching last year’s record. 

“Our FY17 research funding awards provide strong evidence of the tremendous capacity of our faculty to generate new ideas to tackle societal challenges and benefit the lives of Iowans and our global society,” Nusser said. “More than half of our larger awards were to initiate new research projects, and we doubled the number of awards of $1 million or more.”

Nusser noted a particular strength in this year’s funding was support for interdisciplinary research in complex societal challenges identified as key areas for Iowa State. Iowa State’s research themes include promoting plant, animal and human health; building sustainability into community, agricultural, and natural systems; designing advanced materials and manufacturing; enabling data-driven science and secure cyberinfrastructure; and developing Iowa’s workforce in a global economy.


Iowa State’s major sources of external funding in FY17

Federal agencies

  • Energy, $76,516,213
  • Agriculture, $40,299,255
  • National Science Foundation, $36,056,474
  • Education, $29,903,386
  • Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health, $12,873,682
  • Commerce, $7,713,965
  • Defense, $7,028,154
  • Other federal, $8,560,274

Non-federal sources

  • Individual, $163,854,957
  • Industry/corporate, $45,275,806
  • State of Iowa, $33,207,279
  • Nonprofit organizations, $22,188,486
  • Higher education, $12,669,430
  • Commodity groups, $5,795,469
  • Other non-federal, $1,668,669

External funding total (including many other sources)

  • $503,611,500


External Research Funding --

Winning support for Iowa State research, discoveries

Posted Jul 16, 2017 10:37 pm

By Sarah Nusser, vice president for research

Iowa State University received its second-highest level of research funding in fiscal year 2017. Researchers landed $243.7 million from external sponsors to support groundbreaking research.

Iowa State received $168.7 million in research support from federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health. Research funding from non-federal sponsors totaled $74.9 million. Non-federal sponsors include industry, commodity organizations, nonprofits, the state of Iowa, and subcontracts from other higher education institutions.

Department of Energy support for Iowa State researchers was one area of growth in research funding during fiscal year 2017. New funding supports research to create novel metal materials to make electric vehicle motors smaller, lighter, more powerful, and more cost effective; develop novel algorithms to manage emerging use of distributed generators in our power grid system and to protect the future smart power grid from cyberattacks; and develop microsensors to improve crop production and environmental sustainability in generating feedstocks for biorenewable energy and chemicals. Iowa State also received Department of Energy funding to support the Ames Laboratory, a national laboratory co-located on Iowa State’s campus that conducts research on materials science, condensed matter physics and chemistry. The Ames Laboratory celebrated its 70th year as a collaborative partner with Iowa State this May.

Research funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture helps Iowa State researchers improve production of animals and plants to support local, national and global demand for food and energy. New funding is supporting researchers in their quest to use new algorithms to advance genomic selection for plants and animals, improve breeding strategies for increasing disease resistance in swine, understand genetic mechanisms that drive the emergence of plant wilt in crops, engineer microbial cell membranes to improve production of biorenewable chemicals and fuels, and utilize integrated pest management as a strategy to increase wild and honey bee populations.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsors innovative research at Iowa State to address a broad range of challenges in research and workforce development in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) fields. This year’s funding is helping researchers develop a traffic incident management system to improve road safety and traffic control; create low-cost, disposable biosensors to improve disease diagnosis, pathogen detection, and water quality testing; investigate “orphan genes” – genes without clear genetic parents – to increase crop plant resiliency and nutritional value; understand how black men’s experiences in engineering colleges shape their identities and academic success in order to improve academic retention and success for minorities in STEM fields; and develop novel educational programs to improve gender and race/ethnic diversity in software engineering and other STEM fields.

Novel instrumentation is also supported by NSF, including a field-based robotic network that gathers plant growth measurements for understanding how crop growth varies with environmental conditions, as well as a joint Iowa State and University of Iowa project to improve measurement of structural, mechanical and thermal properties of soft materials.

Biomedical research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) includes investigating the role of pesticide exposure in the development of Parkinson’s disease and identifying chemical candidates to target cell structures in malaria-causing parasites. NIH also provides funding to encourage minority students to pursue veterinary toxicology through a new online program about the importance of protecting human, animal and environmental health.

Iowa State humanities researchers also landed funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities for two history projects, including investigating the influence of women artists in East German and western politics, and understanding media use by Native Americans in rebuilding their cultural, economic and political systems during the Great Depression and World War II. 

Iowa State research is supported by a variety of other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Department of Transportation, among others. 

Non-federal sponsors, such as industry, commodity groups, nonprofit organizations and the state of Iowa, are also vital to Iowa State’s research portfolio. Commodity groups and industry, for example, are instrumental in supporting research in agricultural production and the development of new technologies for commercialization.

Nonprofit organizations are playing a bigger role in supporting research at Iowa State. A new project funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation evaluates models for improving adolescent health through community-healthcare provider partnerships that integrate screening, intervention and treatment referral. The James S. McDonnell Foundation supports work on incorporating principles from the science of learning – how best to learn and retain information, how to improve student motivation, and how to enhance learning of complex skills – in varying contexts from individualized learning, to small classrooms with young children, to large online classes for adult learners.