Funding for sponsored research at Rochester Institute of Technology grew by nearly 10 percent in fiscal 2013, with the university receiving a record number of awards.
RIT announced this week that it had received more than $47 million in funding in fiscal 2013, including more than 400 new awards from state, federal, corporate and foundation partners.
One of the largest sources of funding, the National Science Foundation, accounts for $28 million in funding spread over 120 active, multiyear research projects.
"The National Science Foundation conducts investigator-initiated, peer-reviewed research, and our awards have nearly doubled in the past five years," said Ryne Raffaelle, RIT vice president of research and associate provost. "This is an indicator of how RIT has matured as a research university. Plus, our growth is impressive when you consider how highly competitive it is to secure research funding in the current fiscal climate."
RIT's 2013 total was up from $43.7 million in sponsored research funding during the 2012 fiscal year. The university netted $58.4 million in 2011, but officials said the total that year was unusually high because of a $13.1 million grant to the Golisano Institute for Sustainability.
During the same period last year, the University of Rochester had $347 million in sponsored research.
RIT officials have made efforts to increase requests for funding, with a concerted push in hiring faculty and training them to apply for grants.
The efforts have paid off, RIT officials said. In the past four years, the university has moved from the top third of research institutions to the top quarter, according to an analysis of the NSF's annual Higher Education Research and Development Survey.
In the last year, RIT researchers submitted more than 700 funding proposals, a record for the university.
Highlights of RIT's annual sponsored research report include a $3.2 million, five-year NSF Advance award to Margaret Bailey, mechanical engineering professor in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. The initiative addresses issues of recruitment, retention and advancement of female faculty through a series of campuswide activities.
Stephanie Ludi, associate professor of software engineering in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information, was awarded two NSF grants totaling nearly $1 million for work on increasing access for blind and visually impaired students.
A separate $2.3 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to Marc Marschark, professor at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, will fund research on the language, learning and cognitive abilities of deaf students with cochlear implants.
The NSF Partnerships for Innovation program also awarded $600,000 to Denis Cormier, the Earl W. Brinkman professor in RIT's industrial and systems engineering department. Cormier is leading a project involving RIT, Rochester-based Intrinsiq Materials Inc. and two national companies, NovaCentrix Corp. and Optomec Inc., that manufacture equipment for the emerging fields of printing/deposition, nano-inks and print applications.
An $860,000 grant from the Department of Energy went to David Forbes, associate research professor in RIT's NanoPower Research Laboratory, for development of a high-efficiency solar cell.
Though RIT has been successful in receiving grant funding, especially in competition with its peers, difficulties remain ahead, noted David Bond, RIT director of sponsored research. Research funding has been cut back at federal and state levels, and even more cuts are threatened.
"It's been difficult for a while, and my hope is that it doesn't get worse, but this remains part of the federal budget that's susceptible to cuts and the sequester," Bond said. "Until lawmakers figure out the grand design, it's going to remain a challenge."
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