MSU Hits Research Milestone $844 Million in Expenditures

Michigan State University had an exceptional year for research volume in 2023, breaking previous records by achieving $844 million in total research and development expenditures. The increase of $84.8 million over the 2022 total of $759 million brings the university closer to its strategic plan goal of reaching $1 billion in annual research expenditures by 2030. Importantly, the research discoveries and creative activities spurred by this increase contribute to new knowledge and ultimately lead to enhanced quality of life for the citizens of Michigan and beyond.

According to data recently reported for the 2023 National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development Survey (NSF HERD), research expenditures from federal sources made the largest gain, totaling $435 million, an increase of $54 million or 14%. Expenditures from state and local, business and nonprofit sources were all up, contributing to the 11% overall increase.

The research enterprise at MSU is growing because of the long-term, sustained investments we have made in areas of strength, support of ongoing initiatives and enhanced efforts to capture emerging areas of discovery. Our success comes from investing in our greatest asset, our faculty, their teams and the infrastructure it takes to support their world-class efforts.

MSU’s diverse research portfolio addresses many complex challenges of the 21st century, and growth was recognized across all major segments tracked by the survey. Priority areas of the strategic plan — including plant and agricultural sciences, water, mobility, materials science, education, nuclear physics, biomedical sciences and climate and environmental sciences — all showed strong gains and demonstrate that MSU’s excellence is not restricted to a few disciplinary silos.

“Through developing transdisciplinary research themes and building teams to tackle society’s big problems, we are engaging faculty and students from across the campus and community partners from across the state and globally. Technologies alone are not sufficient to develop and implement solutions to global challenges. We need to forge collaborations with the social sciences, humanities, arts, communication, business and law to develop and implement solutions that can be put into practice,” said Gage.

Strategic planning and investments into research infrastructure, both facilities and instrumentation, have provided new opportunities for science, and serve as tools to attract and retain faculty and students. Faculty recruitment programs, such as the Global Impact Initiative (GII), which has brought nearly 100 new faculty to MSU, concentrate on specific research challenges and have produced a strong return on investment.

MSU has also been expanding training grant programs to develop the next generation of scholars, and faculty have successfully competed recently for new NSF National Research Training grants. Those, along with National Institutes of Health training grants, baccalaureate bridge programs, and NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate Programs, provide an opportunity to recruit and retain graduate students from underrepresented communities to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

The largest gains in expenditures from federal agencies were in Department of Energy and Health and Human Services funding. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), a Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) user facility, is a key contributor ranking MSU #1 nationally in DOE funded expenditures. FRIB has a significant impact on the local and the state economies by supporting a highly trained local workforce and attracting scientists from across the globe. Besides cutting-edge fundamental science, FRIB also opens the door for new innovations in diverse areas, from the creation of novel radio-labeled diagnostic and therapeutic agents for human and animal health to the testing of electronics for applications in deep space. MSU is making investments now to capture those future areas of opportunity.

MSU is a pioneer in plant science, and the renewal of important programs such as the MSU-DOE Plant Research Lab and the DOE-supported Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) helped bolster DOE-funded expenditures. The recently renewed NSF Long Term Ecological Research program at Kellogg Biological Station and the growth of the GII MSU Plant Resilience Institute also contribute to this area of excellence. Development of infrastructure, such as a major renovation of the greenhouse complex, and planning for a new plant and environmental science building will be part of MSU’s future success and further strengthen its global reputation.

Carolina de Aguiar Ferreira, Ph.D. (center) precisely targets cancer cells with diagnostics and therapies using radioisotopes produced at FRIB.

MSU has made major strides in the health sciences with partners such as Henry Ford Health in SE Michigan, the C.S. Mott Foundation in Flint, and Corewell Health in West Michigan. The university will continue to grow biomedical research across the state and address the strategic priority of increasing health equity, while simultaneously growing the biomedical research portfolio. The benefits to future research expenditures from those partnership efforts are only just beginning. Recent examples of collaborations with researchers at Henry Ford Health and other partners include two MSU-led NIH center awards, the Maternal Health Multilevel Intervention/s for Racial Equity (MIRACLE) Center at $18 million and the National Center for Health and Justice Integration for Suicide Prevention (NCHATS) at $15 million.

Moving forward, research around climate solutions, environmental sciences, water and sustainable agriculture will take front and center stage. The Center for PFAS Research and the MSU Water Alliance both recently launched enhanced efforts on water quality and availability, important to the Great Lakes region. In addition, the Center for Regenerative Agriculture, efforts in precision agriculture and the new dairy research center will bolster MSU’s historical leadership in these critical areas.

And MSU remains focused on research that reinforces the Michigan economy, including supply chain, packaging, materials science for chip electronics, higher-energy-density batteries, efficient solar cells, lightweight composites, as well as AI, electrical engineering and system security for autonomous vehicles. Application of these technologies requires a skilled workforce. A majority of MSU’s College of Engineering graduates, for example, remain with Michigan companies.

We couldn’t make this type of progress without the support of our partners, including the Michigan State University Research Foundation. Their assistance provides seed funding for new areas of research, cutting-edge instrumentation and infrastructure improvements, all imperative for research success. The MSU Research Foundation also provides venture funding for startup companies at MSU and across the state in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Research discoveries translate to novel products, therapies and companies. In 2023, the MSU Innovation Center, the unit that supports MSU faculty innovation and technology transfer, received 141 invention disclosures from faculty and students, filed 60 new patent applications and assisted with 44 new patents issued. Activity with corporate partners in 2023 resulted in more than $25 million in support for MSU research, student programs and other engagements.

MSU’s research enterprise is thriving due to the successful implementation of long-term plans and strategic investments, continued dedication to research excellence by our faculty, staff and students and expansion of collaborations with external organizations. Positioned for continued success, MSU has a bright future ahead.

This story first published on the Office of Research and Administration website

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