UO made steady gains in research and innovation in FY 2014

Researchers at the University of Oregon submitted a record number of proposals for research funding during the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to numbers released by UO’s Sponsored Projects Services. A total of 1,070 research proposals were submitted, a 16.3 percent increase from the previous year.

“Researchers at the University of Oregon secured grants and contracts that contributed millions of dollars to the Oregon economy and provided untold benefits,” said Brad Shelton, interim vice president for research and innovation. “UO faculty research activity grew even in a year that saw a number of challenges, including the impact of a federal government shutdown and research funding cutbacks. New knowledge and exciting discoveries are generated every day on this campus, where research is built on a strong foundation of bold ideas, innovative solutions and a longstanding tradition of interdisciplinary research.”

In the 2014 fiscal year, the UO received $110.3 million in grants, contracts and other competitive awards — a 13 percent increase from the previous year. The total was made up of 632 awards received by 264 principal investigators, examining everything from new models of student achievement to better analysis of real world Internet connectivity problems to developing new therapeutic strategies for myotonic dystrophy.

The majority of UO research proposals (87 percent) were submitted for federal funding, and UO researchers received support from private foundations as well, including a Grand Challenges Explorations Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The UO, the state’s only Association of American Universities member, generated research that continued to inspire innovations, including new spinout companies, the filing of 25 U.S. patent applications and a total reinvestment of $6.3 million to academic units, innovators and the state of Oregon. The UO’s return on research through licensing income (licensing income divided by research expenditures) in 2014 was 9.2 percent, putting the university among the top performing research institutions nationally.

“We saw strong returns on our research investments in the 2014 fiscal year as UO researchers found new ways to bring their projects to the marketplace,” said Chuck Williams, the UO’s assistant vice president for innovation. “Discoveries made at the University of Oregon continue to fuel innovations that bring benefits to society and help power the Oregon economy.”

The UO’s tradition of pioneering innovation and entrepreneurship — which dates back decades to former graduate student Walter Brattain co-inventing the transistor in 1956 and track coach Bill Bowerman pioneering the modern running shoe and partnering with student athlete Phil Knight to found Nike — remains strong. UO’s involvement in the Oregon Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) took off in 2014 with the opening of the RAIN Eugene Accelerator.

Eight startup companies from the region joined the accelerator’s first cohort, including Dune Sciences — a spin-off from research into green nanomaterials from the laboratory of Jim Hutchison, UO’s Lokey-Harrington Chair in Chemistry — and three additional companies with UO ties. Supported by an investment from the Oregon Legislature that established a partnership between the state’s leading research universities — the University of Oregon and Oregon State University— and the cities of Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis and Albany, the initiative creates opportunities for startup companies in the southern Willamette Valley.

To read the executive summary of the report on sponsored funding at the UO, visit the UO’s Sponsored Projects Services website.

—By Lewis Taylor, Research and Innovation