Penn State spent $968 million on research this past fiscal year — its highest amount ever, and its third year of record research spending increases.
That’s according to Senior Vice President for Research Lora Weiss, who noted in a press release that Penn State research expenses increased $47 million from the previous fiscal year. Part of last year’s research total includes a record $593 million in federal funding and $375 million from a combination of state, university and private funding sources.
Funding from the United States Department of Navy to Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory increased by $16 million, going from $205.5 million in 2017-18 to $221.6 million in 2018-19, said Penn State spokesman Ben Manning.
About 98% of Navy funds Penn State receives are funneled to the Applied Research Lab through the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) contract. Last March, NAVSEA awarded a 10-year $2.1 billion contract to the university — the largest in university history — for research and development to improve national security.
According to a March cybersecurity intelligence agency report cited by the Wall Street Journal, Penn State was one of dozens of universities targeted by a Chinese hacking group in an international plot to steal maritime technology designated for military use. The university neither confirmed nor denied the report’s assertion.
A 13% increase in the ARL’s research expenses was a “major factor” in achieving Penn State’s record research total, said Weiss.
“It’s gratifying to see the continued confidence the Department of Defense has in our research,” she said. “We deeply value the partnership we have built over the years, and we’re exceedingly proud of Penn State’s role in national security.”
In addition to increased Navy funding, Penn State also saw increased support from Department of Health and Human Services and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, making up a $31 million total increase in federal funding.
NASA expenses at Penn State rose from $12.8 million in 2017-18 to $15 million in 2018-19, with Eberly College of Science receiving 60% of total funds and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences receiving a third of NASA funds.
For Eberly, “these funds support projects like the Swift gamma-ray burst detection satellite and other research efforts in astronomy and astrophysics,” said Manning. EMS uses its funding to support astrobiology, atmospheric science and hurricane analysis, he said.
The state also increased its funding to Penn State, from $68 million to $73 million, while funding from industry, foundations and other private sponsors stayed at $101 million, according to the release.
Among federally sponsored projects, Penn State received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a graduate program dedicated to studying food, energy and water problems on a landscape scale.
It also received the first $1.5 million of an $8.1 million award from the National Institutes of Health to develop a new model for personalizing the prediction and treatment of infectious diseases and a $2.3 million increment of a total $13.4 million grant from NIH for a project using mobile technologies to measure cognitive changes over human lifespans.
Weiss said about 21% of all Penn State’s research expenditures are dedicated to investing in “research for the public good, an integral part of its land grant mission.” That also includes investing in facilities, infrastructures and staffing that allow the university to attract federal grant money that is often highly competitive.