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Source: US State of Connecticut

In fiscal year 2020, researchers from UConn and UConn Health secured nearly $286 million in research and other types of sponsored funding, the most in the University’s history, according to a report released today by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).

The record-breaking $286 million in award funding represents an increase of more than $19 million, or about 7%, over FY2019.

UConn and UConn Health faculty also spent nearly $250 million in expenditures for research and other sponsored activity, the highest combined annual amount in the University’s history. This is an increase of almost $6 million, or 2%, as compared with FY2019.

“I’m very proud of our entire research community for what they have accomplished in the last year,” says President Thomas Katsouleas, who was appointed UConn’s 16th president in August 2019. Katsouleas has set an ambitious goal of doubling research at UConn within a decade. He also hopes to bolster UConn’s reputation as a destination for industry partners, entrepreneurs, and researchers with interest in commercialization.

“We still have work ahead of us, but this increase is an indication of UConn’s commitment to create new knowledge and offer valuable experiential learning opportunities for our students,” says Katsouleas.

Some notable awards contributed to the FY2020 totals, including a recently announced $10 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture for a new sustainable poultry production effort. The project is led by professor of animal science and associate dean of research and graduate education in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, Kumar Venkitanarayanan.

UConn Health’s top award renewed support for the Center for Biomolecular NMR Data Processing and Analysis. The $6.9 million award from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) extends funding for software support for hundreds of NMR (nuclear magnetic spectroscopy) programs used in biomedical research, such as drug discovery and structural biology. The project is led by School of Medicine professor of molecular biology and biophysics, Jeff Hoch.

UConn’s 80 research centers and institutes also contributed to the significant funding totals, including the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP), which is responsible for $21.8M in new funding in FY2020. Faculty affiliated with the multi-disciplinary research institute are experts in various areas of health behavior research, including food policy, substance abuse, and infectious disease. InCHIP researchers received many large grants, including a $3 million grant to Seth Kalichman from the National Institutes of Health for a behavioral health intervention to improve HIV care retention and antiretroviral adherence in stigmatized environments. UConn also deployed InCHIP researchers to help develop plans for the Fall 2020 semester reopening, which posed unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growth in research funding is even more encouraging given the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption it caused to the University’s research enterprise, says UConn Vice President for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Radenka Maric.

While some projects have been impacted due to restrictions on travel and in-person events, there was only a relatively brief period of limited research activity between mid-March and mid-May 2020. During the ramp down, UConn’s research community was able to continue critical projects while also keeping the health and safety at the fore, says Maric. There was also no significant change in administrative research operations, which meant faculty could continue to submit new proposals as they would have pre-pandemic.

“Despite the significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, our faculty, staff, and graduate students remained committed to both their work and our collective health. They, along with our university and state leaders, should be commended for their success in keeping the research engine running.”

The OVPR report shares details on sponsored program funding, which includes grants for research, service, and education from external sponsors like federal agencies, state government, and industry. The report also captures funding UConn researchers received from non-profit organizations.

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