The University of Arizona ranks No. 21 among all public institutions in the National Science Foundation's annual Higher Education Research and Development Survey, a quantification of research activity taking place at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
The UA's $606 million in research and development expenditures in fiscal year 2015 — surpassing the previous year's total by nearly $20 million — puts the UA among the top 5 percent of all universities nationwide and the highest in the state.
"The University has incredibly talented faculty and researchers, and the UA's research expenditure rankings are one sign of the quality of their work," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "The continued increase in the volume of research conducted at the UA is an important contributor to Arizona's economic growth, and I am very proud of the progress that the University has made in enabling the success of its researchers."
The survey draws on data from the 2015 federal fiscal year and includes 906 institutions — public and private — that reported at least $150,000 in research and development expenditures.
The UA, bolstered by its lead role in the OSIRIS-REx mission, placed fifth in NASA funding and ranked No. 1 in astronomy activity among all universities. The UA also excelled in physical science research and development activity, ranking No. 2 among all institutions. These research projects include those focused on physics, astronomy, chemistry, optics and related fields.
"Our faculty continue to achieve success at a fast pace. Last year, faculty conducted approximately $390,000 in research and development activity per member — higher than many of our peers," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, senior vice president for research. "The creativity and ingenuity of our researchers is unparalleled. The beneficiaries are not only the state and nation but our students who work shoulder-to-shoulder with our faculty to learn the skills necessary for their future success in the workplaces of tomorrow."
Espy presented the UA's most recent research data to the Arizona Board of Regents as part of the UA's progress report on its Never Settle strategic plan. Over the last three years, the submission of research proposals has increased 14 percent, and the number of successful research and development awards grew by 25 percent.
Research is on an upward trajectory in large part because of the UA's collaborative culture and its innovative external partnerships, Espy said. The UA serves as the science lead in AIM Photonics — one of the National Manufacturing Initiatives, which also includes Intel, Cisco, IBM, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard.
The UA also partnered with Banner Health and was awarded a $43 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to participate in the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program, which aims to enroll 1 million or more U.S. participants to improve prevention and treatment of disease based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genetics.
In November 2015, the Arizona Board of Regents reviewed and approved the UA's performance-based benchmarks for 2025, one of which is to reach three-quarters of a billion dollars in research expenditures by the next decade.