Another record year: Expansion of University of Alabama research efforts continues

Another record year: Expansion of University of Alabama research efforts continues
Christopher Simpson, a University of Alabama doctorate student in aerospace engineering, works with a drone before a test flight. UA in 2021 recorded its eighth straight year of record external funding for innovative research projects. (contributed)

Research at the University of Alabama (UA) continues to grow, recording the eighth straight year of record external funding for projects that expand knowledge and spark innovation.

In fiscal 2021, sponsored awards totaled $171 million, a 1.6% increase over the previous year. UA received 814 sponsored awards, a nearly 19% jump from fiscal 2020. Sponsored awards include all competitive external funding for research, instruction, outreach, other sponsored activity, fellowships and construction.

Over the past three fiscal years, the growth rate of UA’s research expenditures was first among 14 members of the Southeastern Conference and in the top 10 among all 131 of the nation’s most robust research universities. Since the start of fiscal 2019, total sponsored awards to UA have increased by more than 72%.

“Sponsored research is a validation of the prominent faculty and staff and outstanding students at the University of Alabama,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell. “It allows us to extend our influence in ways that better society and advance our mission as the flagship institution for the state.”

Russell J. Mumper is vice president for research and economic development at the University of Alabama. (contributed)

External grants and contracts directly supporting UA research in fiscal 2021 also reached record levels, topping $100 million for the first time. This is the fourth straight year externally sponsored research hit record highs.

“Advanced research at the university not only provides solutions to some of our greatest challenges, but also leads to a transformative educational experience for our students with the opportunity to improve the workforce for Alabama and retain great talent within the state,” said Russell J. Mumper, UA vice president for research and economic development. “We continue to advance UA’s strategic goal of increasing productivity and innovation in research, scholarship and creative activities.”

In 2019, the Office for Research and Economic Development (ORED) announced its five-year strategic plan. The plan centers on growing and developing faculty, involving students in research, enhancing the role and impact of the Alabama Research Institutes, investing in transformative initiatives and engaging with industry. Last August, ORED published its Year 2 Annual Report of its strategic plan, detailing progress made in achieving its goals.

ORED’s strategic plan builds on the university’s designation by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education as a Very High Research Activity doctoral university, the nation’s highest level of research activity for the 131 institutions with this designation.

UA’s research is largely organized around Alabama Research Institutes that focus on signature research themes of transportation, water, life research, cyber and multiscale analytical sciences. The institute infrastructure helped UA researchers submit a record number of more than 1,200 grant and contract applications in fiscal 2021, a nearly 12% increase.

“I would like to thank our congressional and state legislative delegations for their support and dedication in advancing UA’s research mission and securing critical resources aligned with the Alabama Research Institutes,” Mumper said.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

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