A nearly 10 percent increase in fiscal year 2021
BOSTON – The five-campus University of Massachusetts system research enterprise grew to $752 million in fiscal year 2021, shattering the previous high of $687 million set only a year earlier, according to the system’s latest annual research report. UMass R&D has grown by nearly 20 percent over the past five years, boosted by large increases in federal research funding.
Support from federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), makes up the largest share of UMass research funding. Federal support grew by 16 percent in FY21 and has grown by 26 percent since FY16, to its current total of $446 million.
“Research is a critical component of the UMass mission,” UMass President Marty Meehan said. “The discoveries being made on each of our campuses today will power the Massachusetts innovation economy of tomorrow while confronting challenges ranging from public health to climate change.”
Consistent with prior years, the greatest concentration of UMass research spending is in the STEM fields, with roughly 94 percent, or $704 million, in those disciplines. This includes $441 million focused on the life sciences.
- UMass Amherst researchers funded by NIH and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are working to address the opioid epidemic from several angles.
- UMass Boston researchers funded by NIH are working with the Dana Farber Institute to examine how exercise helps Black and Hispanic patients recover from chemotherapy.
- UMass Dartmouth researchers funded by the U.S. Navy are developing underwater autonomous vehicle technology that will support the blue economy and offshore wind industry.
- UMass Lowell researchers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy are helping to reduce plastic films through upcycling, the conversion of discarded materials into products of higher value than the original.
- UMass Chan Medical School researchers funded by NIH are testing the performance of at-home COVID-19 tests.
The largest increases came at UMass Chan Medical School, where total research and development expenditures reached $347 million, 24.5 percent higher than the previous year. UMass Amherst has the second largest research portfolio at $214 million in FY21.
The University of Massachusetts is positioning itself for increased federal support of its research and development activity. In March 2021, the UMass President’s Office released a series of reports titled, “NEXT: Frontiers in Applied Sciences,” which outlined key research sectors where the university is well-positioned to lead over the next 5-to-10 years.
“We’ve been very intentional about aligning our research portfolio with the needs of Massachusetts, the nation and the expertise of the world-class faculty at UMass,” said System Chancellor Katherine Newman. “This continued growth in our research and development enterprise demonstrates the soundness of our strategy and the excellence of our people.”
The “NEXT” reports covered areas of research that are critical to the Commonwealth, including: Advanced Manufacturing; Aerospace, Defense, Undersea Technologies, and Remote Sensing; Applied Life Sciences; Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science; Precision Health; and Sustainability and Climate Resilience.
UMass followed up these reports with a series of virtual summits that brought academia, industry, and government together to discuss some of these topics.
The university has also been making its more than 90 core research facilities, available to industry on a fee-for-service basis to accelerate job-creating research and development.
UMass has the third-largest research portfolio among universities in Massachusetts and the fourth-largest in New England.
On Monday, President Meehan joined Governor Charlie Baker, U.S. House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal, and MassBio CEO Joe Boncore in convening business, higher education, and government leaders to rally support for bringing a new federal “high risk-high reward” biomedical research agency to Massachusetts. A cornerstone of the initiative is the concentration of national research universities.