Illinois universities reap greater private research dollars

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SHARE Illinois universities reap greater private research dollars

Colleges and universities in Illinois have bucked a nationwide trend by reaping growing amounts of funding from private industry for academic research and development, a new report reveals.

“Investments in research and development are the life blood for long-term competitiveness for many companies,” said Mark Harris, president and CEO of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, which published the latest Illinois Innovation Index, a monthly tracking of innovation and economic activity in Chicago and Illinois. “Partnerships with academic institutions are critical in driving basic and applied research, particularly in research-intensive industries such as computing and biotechnology.”

Yet Illinois ranks eighth nationwide in industry funding for university research — a position that has stayed constant for the past decade. Illinois is outflanked by, from first to seventh, California, New York, Texas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and North Carolina, according to the report. Behind Illinois and rounding out the top 10 are Ohio at No. 9 and Michigan at No. 10.

Illinois industries contributed $100 million to universities statewide in fiscal year 2011, the latest data available adjusted for inflation— a 20 percent increase from fiscal 2010, which itself was a record funding year.

The largest beneficiary of the private money was the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with $34.6 million in fiscal 2011, more than double the prior year.Northwestern University received $14.9 million in industry funding for university research and development, while the University of Chicago got $14.8 million.

Such funding is necessary to maintain hubs of scientists and engineers that boost a community’s wages, schools, retail spending and economic development, according to the report published Nov. 1.

Illinois universities depend mostly on federal funding for their research and development, with 65 percent of the total funding coming from the federal government.

Nationally, federal funding to university research skyrocketed by 82 percent from 2000 to 2011, while industry investment rose by only 15 percent, the report showed.

In Illinois, industry funding increased by 38 percent from 2000 to 2011 when adjusted for inflation.

The report’s authors say Illinois is showing signs of growing its higher-education partnerships with the private sector, given initiatives such as the University of Illinois’ UILabs, a research, development and supercomputing center planned in Chicago and aimed at recruiting scientists, engineers and researchers from throughout the world.

sguy@suntimes.com

@sandraguy

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