When it comes to securing research grant money, it was a big year for Oregon State University. School officials announced this week this was the second best year on record for competitive grants and contracts for research dollars. OSU earned a total of $382 million in the fiscal year ending June 30.
The largest grant came via a National Science Foundation grant of $88 million for the construction of a second coastal research vessel. When it comes to Agriculture research, OSU received $2 million from the USDA to develop barley varieties. The focus is new crops that can increase yields in organic farming systems and generate new food products for consumer markets.
Last year, OSU provided more than $1 million to support more than 800 undergraduate student research and creative projects overseen by faculty mentors.
Oregon State Provost and Executive Vice President Ed Feser said that OSU researchers focus on major challenges facing the state, the nation and the world.
“Over the years, OSU scientists have produced disease-resistant crops, such as varieties of soft white wheat and hazelnuts, found new ways to fight infectious diseases and treat cancer, and contributed to improving the economy, the environment and communities in sustainable ways,” he said. “Research conducted at Oregon State advances science, solves problems, creates jobs and trains our future workforce.
“Oregon State’s success in earning federal, state and private sector support for research is due to the amazing efforts of our faculty and their desire to achieve and engage in research excellence. Writing successful research proposals takes teamwork and commitment over and above the day-to-day responsibilities of teaching, running a lab and mentoring student researchers. It also requires active support from our research and business center staff.”Last year, OSU provided more than $1 million to support more than 800 undergraduate student research and creative projects overseen by faculty mentors. In addition, graduate students depend on grants to faculty for projects that enable them to complete their degrees.
Among examples of OSU research supported by grant funds last year are:
- $2.2 million from the National Institutes of Health for research on the role of brain cell deterioration in the development of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
- $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to OSU-Cascades in Bend for an innovative solar-powered desalination process to generate clean water for countries around the world. The project aims to boost access to drinking water where supplies are limited.
- $1.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to test a new approach to measure firefighters’ chemical exposure. The researchers’ goal is to improve safety for people on the front lines of firefighting efforts.
- $2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop barley varieties. The focus is new crops that can increase yields in organic farming systems and generate new food products for consumer markets.
- $1 million from the National Science Foundation to support consumer education in sustainable energy use in a collaboration with Stanford University and the Girl Scouts. The researchers use smart-meter technology to help students and families monitor and manage energy use within their households.
- A donation valued at more than $1 million from TDS Telecommunications LLC to support OSU’s Open Source Lab, which employs students to manage software used by government, industry and social media companies.
As Oregon’s land grant university, OSU conducts research from basic science to projects inspired by the needs of businesses and the public. For example, with funding from the state Legislature, OSU researchers are gathering data on the nesting behavior of a threatened seabird, the marbled murrelet. The goal is to inform forest harvesting practices that protect the species, which spends most of its life at sea and nests up to 50 miles inland in large trees.
In the health sciences, researchers have documented the benefits of midwifery for better birth outcomes. Other scientists have identified potential compounds produced by dirt-dwelling microbes that could be effective in pharmaceuticals for treating melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.
While about two-thirds of OSU research revenues came from federal agencies, additional resources were provided by state and local governments, industry, foundations and nonprofit organizations. In the last fiscal year, the Agricultural Research Foundation provided more than $6 million for work on weed control; disease resistant wheat, berry and vegetable processing; pollination; pest management; and other agricultural and natural resource projects. Various groups provided more than $4.5 million in applied research contract funds to OSU scientists through the foundation. For example, the Oregon Wheat Commission contributed $785,000. The Oregon Hazelnut Commission, Oregon Potato Commission, Oregon Wine Board and several other commodities groups also provide consistent six-figure funding.
In the last year, industry partners provided $31 million to Oregon State in research funding, a drop of 7 percent from the previous year. Licensing and royalty income rose 10 percent to $4.4 million.
Brian Wall, assistant vice president for research, commercialization and industry partnerships, noted that through training programs like the OSU Advantage Accelerator and InnovationX (an entrepreneurial program in the OSU College of Business), as well as the use of the University Venture Development Fund, OSU continues to increase the number of faculty and students who are starting companies and bringing innovation to the marketplace.
“These activities support the launch of high-growth startups that have significant impact on the economy,” Wall said. “Last year, representatives from 31 conceptual start-up businesses participated in a new hybrid early-stage accelerator program called Iterate. We expect this number to grow significantly in the future after making this training available online and connecting it to our OSU-Cascades campus and operations in Newport at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Approximately one company is launched for every five commercialization ideas that we support in these programs.”
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