News: Press Releases

Student working in the lab
February 23, 2016

UMass R&D climbs to record $629 million

  • The UMass System
Funding continues to rise despite post-recession tightening for sector, UMass research serves as statewide catalyst

BOSTON – Feb. 23, 2016: Despite the tightening of the funding environment, the University of Massachusetts saw sponsored research increase by 4.3 percent during the past year, reaching a record $629 million, President Marty Meehan announced today. 

The University’s growth in research output comes at a time when federal funding for higher education R&D has been increasing in small increments at best -- and has been losing its impact when inflation is factored in.

Research expenditures at UMass, however, have doubled the level at which the federal government has, in nominal terms, increased funding for higher education research since the recession of 2008 led to cutbacks in this critical area.

From 2008 to 2014, research expenditures at UMass increased by 39 percent, more than twice the 18 percent increase in federal funding for higher education research over the six-year period. UMass research during that period rose from $435 million to $603 million, before climbing again to $629 million in FY 2015.

“Even in this era of faltering federal support for science, UMass continues to move ahead simply because the quality of the work being done on our campuses is so compelling,” President Meehan said. “In areas ranging from the life sciences, to nanomanufacturing to climate science, UMass faculty researchers are setting the standard and are blazing trails of innovation that will benefit Massachusetts and the world.”

According to NSF data, funds spent by all U.S. colleges and universities on R&D increased by 24 percent between 2008 and 2014, compared with the 39 percent jump at UMass.

Most of the research conducted by UMass faculty members is externally funded, with the majority of the funding – 57 percent -- coming from federal entities, such as the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Institutional resources provided 28 percent of funding, industry and business 8 percent, and state and local funding this year increased from 4 percent to 7 percent.

The new UMass research-activity report, establishing UMass system output at $629 million in 2014-2015, was submitted recently to the NSF in accordance with the agency’s reporting timetable. Comparative data is not yet available for 2014-2015.

“Research and Development spending by UMass is a critical element to economic growth and prosperity in the Commonwealth,” said Education Secretary Jim Peyser. “We are proud that UMass has distinguished itself along with MIT and Harvard as one of the top three research universities in the state, and that UMass continues to be recognized at the federal level as a leading institution for groundbreaking research.”

“UMass has once again proven itself to be a research enterprise that is breaking new ground in many areas vitally important to the economy -- from medicine to manufacturing to textiles. The University’s breakthrough therapies and innovations are making a real difference in people’s lives – benefitting the Commonwealth and beyond,” Board of Trustees Chairman Victor Woolridge said.

Added President Meehan: “Our research fuels the state’s economy and provides rich, transformative learning opportunities for our students.”

Key elements in the UMass report:

  • 57 percent of UMass research occurred in the life sciences
  • 89 percent was in the overall area of science and engineering
  • In FY 2014, the most recent year for which comparisons to other universities are available, UMass research expenditures grew by 2 percent while all U.S. institutions averaged 0.2 percent growth

Regional leaders noted the importance of UMass research.

“Massachusetts is known for its academic prowess in areas such as research, medicine, technology and more,” said James E. Rooney, president & CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. “Funding and the opportunity for growth in these areas is crucial for our state’s long-term economic success, so I am pleased to know that the University of Massachusetts will continue to be a strong contributor to this success for the foreseeable future.”

“The UMass system is the backbone of our whole health and life sciences industry,” said Kevin O'Sullivan, president and CEO of Massachusetts Biotech Initiatives, a private economic development corporation in Worcester.  “The research coming out of UMass Medical School and the UMass system is leading to discoveries and cures, and is also leading to commercialization -- creating companies and jobs. And those jobs in turn are helping us keep the brains here in Massachusetts -- which is critical to our economy.”  

“Brainpower and innovation are recognized globally as Massachusetts’ calling card and key advantage for economic development,” said Richard Sullivan, President and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts.  “The University of Massachusetts ands its flagship campus in Amherst are central to the future economic development of Western Massachusetts as UMass Amherst is a national leader in innovations in the fields of water, climate change, advanced manufacturing, agriculture, applied materials, cybersecurity, big data and many other sectors that are and will continue to be vital to our economic future.”

UMass is one of the top three research universities in the state, along with MIT and Harvard, and has been highly successful in converting its discoveries into patents and products. UMass ranked 40th in the nation and 53rd in the world based on the U.S. patents earned during calendar year 2014. UMass discoveries generated $34 million in licensing income for Fiscal Year 2015 and typically ranks in the Top 15 nationally for such revenue, according to the Association of University Technology Managers.

By campus, UMass Amherst research expenditures reached $213.9 million in FY 2015; UMass Boston, $62.4 million; UMass Dartmouth, $26.7 million; UMass Lowell, $70.4 million, and UMass Medical, $250.3 million.  

UMass conducts research throughout the Commonwealth via a number of innovative projects and partnerships: These include: 

  • The Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute: UMass Amherst is the lead institution in this $75 million federal initiative to create a competitive, effective and sustainable research-to-manufacturing collaboration between U.S. industry and academia to solve problems in advanced manufacturing.
  • The Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute features  state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms for collaboration and learning among UMass Lowell students and Raytheon employees, and is expected to draw additional federal research funding. 
  • The UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science is an NIH-funded center focused on translating scientific discoveries into practical, cost-effective solutions that improve human health.
  • UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology researchers have received funding from the Environmental Defense Fund, the New England Fishery Management Council, and the Science Center for Marine Fisheries for collaborative research focused on improving stock assessment and understanding fisheries habitat.
  • The UMass Boston Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy conducts research to develop biomarkers that will measure tumor progression more quickly. The work is conducted in collaboration with the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

UMass has been named as one of the World’s Most Innovative Universities by Thomson Reuters, placing 57th among institutions globally. The universities ranked are “the most elite” and “most reliability produce original research, create useful technology, and have the greatest economic impact,” according to the leading multimedia and information firm. 



Contact: Jan Brogan, 781-467-9900; Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073