With almost $400 million in research expenditures in fiscal year 2009, Virginia Tech is now ranked 44th, according to the just released National Science Foundation (NSF) report based on research expenditures at 697 academic institutions.

Virginia Tech ranked 46th in 2008. The university reported $396.7 million in expenditures for the year ending June 30, 2009, an increase of more than $23 million over 2008. Five years earlier, in 2004, Virginia Tech reported just $268.8 million in expenditures to NSF.

“Perhaps the most significant finding in the new data was our rate of growth compared to other Top 50 programs,” said Robert Walters, vice president for research. “We have grown by an average compounded rate of 8.1 percent per year over the last five years. That ranks us fifth in the rate of growth among those top-tier universities.”

Virginia Tech ranked behind Case Western Reserve (12.38 percent), University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (10.39 percent), UNC Chapel Hill (9.16 percent), and Duke University (9.10 percent).

“It is not surprising that the four institutions ahead of us all have premier medical schools given the national priority of funding medical research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH),” said Walters. “We are fortunate that Virginia Tech's leaders began to make NIH funding a priority around 2000, and also that our faculty have risen to the challenge of competing in this arena.”  

"The university has also launched an aggressive program of support for strategically important research through the creation of the Research Institutes of Virginia Tech,” said Walters. "During the past year, institutional strategic planning efforts for growth in health and life sciences research culminated in the establishment of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and the hiring of its founding executive director, Michael Friedlander. 

Although expenditures for the new research institute will not impact the NSF ranking for two years, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, and Fralin Life Sciences Institute strengthen Virginia Tech’s expertise, prominence, and innovation in health, medicine, life sciences, computational biology, and related fields, establishing a foundation for further growth and expansion of our university’s research mission," Walters said.

“We have set our own goal of reaching $540 million in expenditures by 2012,” said Roderick Hall, associate vice president for research. “We are focusing on reaching that goal instead of focusing on how other universities are performing. Our own growth is really all we have the ability to influence.”

University of Maryland, College Park is ranked 41st, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas is 42nd, and Louisiana State University is 43rd. The University of Rochester is just behind Virginia Tech in 45th, Scripps Research Institute is 46th, North Carolina State 47th, University of Chicago 48th, University of Kentucky 49th, and Michigan State University rounds out the top 50.   

"Virginia Tech's faculty is to be commended for their success in competing for grants and contracts in what was a relatively slow period of growth," said Walters. Total funding for universities and colleges grew by just under 5 percent per year from 2004 through 2009 ($54.9 billion versus $43.3 billion).

Research awards at Virginia Tech reflected in 2009 expenditures include on-going studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, such as of hepatitis e virus pathogenesis, intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders, and many basic and applied health-related projects; funding by the Department of Energy for advancements in clean coal technology and new energy sources; and projects funded by other agencies for developing ultra wideband and wireless communication, implementing integrated pest management worldwide, creating a Southwest Virginia writing project, organizing a symposium on financial regulatory reform, and hundreds more projects. 

The National Science Foundation awarded 11 Virginia Tech faculty members with its most prestigious grant in 2009, the Faculty Early Career Development Award. Nine recipients are in the College of Engineering and two are in chemistry. Projects include research on the next generation of cloud computing applications, a framework for high-performance data storage, smart radio networks, advanced materials and sensors, embedded electronic systems, techniques for determining earthquake engineering parameters, and detection of antibiotic-resistant genes in our water. Learn more about Virginia Tech research at the Office of Research online.)

NSF is the federal agency charged by Congress to report annually on academic research in the United States. While NSF is also a funding agency, the expenditures in its report represent all academic research regardless of the sponsor.

Select rankings:

Johns Hopkins University, which includes the Applied Physics Laboratory, with $977,951 in total research and development expenditures in FY 2009, ranked first with $1,856 million in research expenditures. All Michigan campuses were second with $1 billion.

Others in the top 10

  • University of Wisconsin Madison - $952.1 million
  • University of California, San Francisco - $947.7 million
  • University of California, Los Angeles - $889.9 million
  • University of California, San Diego - $879.4 million
  • Duke University - $805 million
  • University of Washington - $778 million
  • Pennsylvania State University all campuses - $753.4 million
  • University of Minnesota all campuses - $740.9 million

Other Virginia universities in the top 200

  • 73 University of Virginia, all campuses - $261.6 million
  • 107 Virginia Commonwealth University - $150.9 million
  • 149 George Mason University - $78.5 million
  • 155 Old Dominion University - $71.9 million
  • 195 Eastern Virginia Medical School - $36.7 million

Rankings lag a year behind reported expenditures; the 2010 ranking will be based on data from the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010. That information will not be available until fall of 2011. 

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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