Expenditures for fiscal year 2022 also included $26 million in industry sponsorships from several hundred companies. These industry partnerships are driving economic development, training the workforce of the future, and facilitating technology transfer in a variety of public-private partnerships.
According to Weiss, industry-sponsored research is often focused on creating innovations and advancing them out of the lab to startup companies, established companies, and through licensing and technology transfer, so that the economic development and benefit to our communities and society is substantial.
For example, Weiss said, in 2021, Penn State became Volvo’s first and only academic partner for research. Volvo has only two on-site university research park locations: Penn State and Sweden, and the company is sponsoring research in and training students on hydrogen fuels, batteries, artificial intelligence and machine learning. In addition, researchers at Penn State are being funded by Nasdaq, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo to use advanced analytics to develop approaches for equitable entrepreneurship and to tailor solutions for female and minority entrepreneurs. Many awards are also multi-year awards. For example, as of September, Penn State currently has 94 active research projects with NASA, with a total value of $43 million.
“While the bulk of research expenditures comes from external sources, Penn State also invests in its own research,” said Weiss. “We support our faculty to help them get their work off the ground. For example, the University regularly provides seed funding to researchers to collect preliminary data that are often necessary to secure external funding. University research dollars also support some of the unique facilities and equipment that enable our faculty to achieve their research visions. With such activity, Penn State continues to be a thought-leader, helping develop the national narrative on what is achievable.”
Weiss explained that external research awards, which often span multiple years, are provided by sponsors in response to competitive proposal submissions. They are provided in advance of any expenditures and authorize spending up to a certain amount for specific activities described in the proposal, which often includes undergraduate and graduate student research support, postdoctoral support, travel, conference participation, materials and supplies. Awards are leading indicators of research growth, while expenditures are reflections of current research activity. Research expenditures are also the metric used for research rankings, for which Penn State is ranked 22nd in the nation.
Weiss also explained that Penn State is no exception to the trend of universities becoming major innovation centers, as Penn State research attracts leading faculty who are innovators and creators of knowledge and discovery; it attracts students and provides them with experiences for career successes; and it attracts industry, helping companies anticipate and solve their challenges. Penn State research is driving progress across the state, the nation, and the world.
For more information about research at Penn State, go to research.psu.edu.