University research expenses broke $875.8 million for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, a 6.4 percent increase from last year and the highest sum spent on research and development in University history.
For the most current year, federal funding covered 69.8 percent of the research — a 2.7 percent increase from last year. The bulk of the increased funding came from private industry, which rose by 11 percent.
Because of the increasingly unreliable nature of federal research spending, University officials have grown wary of depending too heavily on the government and pursued more research partnerships with private companies.
“Many in our faculty who work with industry recognize that if they’re going to increase their research funding, they need to look beyond federal dollars,” said Marvin Parnes, executive director in the office of the vice president for research. “There’s just less federal money and more people competing for it.”
Parnes said the University has made a strong push to forge ties with businesses in order to secure non-governmental funding. By boosting its research, Parnes said, the University can play a role in aiding the state’s struggling economy.
“Anything we can do in terms of introducing innovation and new technologies into industry would be helpful,” he said.
He said researchers across the country were shifting their focus to private funding because of the limited number of federal grants, which are widely expected to stagnate in coming years.
John Reid, director of product technology and innovation for John Deere and Co., an agricultural machinery manufacturer, said the university has a partnership with the company “on the order of about $750,000 a year.” Deere and Company funds research at the University on engines, environmental technology and robotic development.
Reid said University alumni initiated the partnership by pointing the company in the University’s direction for research and development questions, especially those involving engineering.
“We leverage the University to help stretch our thinking and understand what new horizons are out there for our business,” he said. “We use the University to tap into those innovations that will affect John Deere’s business.”