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Colorado State University’s spending on research activities reached a record $407 million for fiscal year 2020, a 2% increase over last year.
The trajectory was welcome news, given the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in scaling back some research projects.
Estimates show that 432 projects were shut down or affected by the pandemic in April 2020, based on a survey of CSU faculty. The number of active projects at that time, however, remained very strong, at 4,290. More recently, the number of research projects affected by the pandemic has been reduced to 227, according to the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Alan Rudolph, vice president for research, said that research spending increased due to the strength of internal investments, which totaled $4.9 million, and an increase of $4.6 million in grants and contracts sponsored by industry and nonprofit organizations over 2019. In addition, the university expended gifts to support research in the amount of $6.5 million.
“We weathered the storm this year, in the face of a global pandemic, and the result is not only positive, but a new record for the university,” said Rudolph. “The increase we’ve seen in research spending this year is a testament to the quality, breadth and depth of our faculty.”
Environmental, infectious disease research
Research spending supported by federal, nonprofit, higher education, industry and other government organizations totaled more than $325 million, an increase over the last fiscal year of 1.4%, according to the Office of the Vice President for Research.
The Center for Environmental Management on Military Lands, CEMML, accounted for 28% of all sponsored program expenditures at the university, or $91 million. The center is part of the Warner College of Natural Resources.
In addition, the Infectious Disease Research Center increased research spending by $3.8 million, which covered projects to advance the development of a vaccine candidate against Rift Valley Fever Virus and a partnership to manufacture an HIV vaccine candidate for Sumagen, a biotechnology company based in South Korea.
Rudolph said that strategic investments in infectious disease research and response also helped to position the university to respond quickly to the global pandemic. Currently, there are 44 active COVID-19 research projects supported by more than $16 million across the university.
Diversity of awards
CSU faculty drive the ever-expanding research enterprise by competing for and receiving grants and contracts. Federal sponsors continue to provide the bulk of funding to university investigators.
CEMML received awards totaling more than $100 million in fiscal year 2020. Scientists with that team will provide wildland fire support at multiple Air Force installations across the country, among other projects.
The Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, CIRA, received nearly $37 million in awards. Scientists at the institute will collaborate on projects with the National Weather Service Meteorological Development Lab and continue work on CloudSat, a satellite mission designed to measure the vertical structure of clouds from space.
Awards to the Colorado State Forest Service totaled more than $15 million and included $7 million to help oversee the permanent protection of the 16,723-acre Banded Peak Ranch in Colorado’s southern San Juan Mountains. This award came from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, and partners involved in the project include The Conservation Fund and the Forest Service.
The Infectious Disease Research Center landed over $11 million in awards, while the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology received $10 million, including a project to study viral pathogens of bats in Uganda.
In addition, the university received $8.8 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020.
New records for commercialization, patents
Research is also closely linked to the work of CSU Ventures, the university’s technology and intellectual property licensing office. CSU Ventures brings technologies and ideas, the majority of which originate in research laboratories, to industry and the marketplace.
In fiscal year 2020, CSU Ventures worked with scientists who disclosed 116 new inventions. The team also oversaw 32 license agreements related to CSU intellectual property, and 69 new patents.
Licensing income for the university totaled $2 million.