Columbia, SC — Lasers, radar, synthetic insulin, blood thinners, computers, rocket fuel: For more than 50 years, university research funded through competitive federal grants has kept the United States on the forefront of technology and our economy moving. Across the country, 70 percent of the research conducted at any university is funded by federal grants. This innovation engine is in danger of being slowed as a result of the $85 billion federal sequestration.
Agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation make these long-term investments in basic research because the benefits of such work cannot be accurately predicted and may take years to manifest, making it unacceptable to private enterprise. For example, basic research on the structure of DNA revolutionized modern medicine, with major economic impact worldwide. The $3.8 billion investment from the NIH in mapping the human genome returned $796 billion in a decade, and 310,000 new jobs in 2010 alone.
In 2012, USC received a record $238 million in external research funding, more than 60 percent from federal sources. Every $1 of research funding generates an estimated $2.21 in local economic growth, making the impact of USC research more than half a billion dollars.
But sequestration could cost USC up to $12 million in competitive federal grants. And it could grow, as federal agencies reduce the number of new grant awards in the coming years. While we understand the difficult budget situation our country faces, and recognize that shared sacrifice is the only path to recovery, our research universities are significant contributors of growth and prosperity.
USC is well-poised to further accelerate research by focusing on issues relevant to our state and region using interdisciplinary approaches. We are home to the nation’s first and only NSF-funded industry/university cooperative research center for fuel cells. Recently, we were awarded a $28 million federal grant to establish the only research center in the nation to study disabilities, from birth defects to blood disorders, and a $10 million grant to develop a national center to study inflammation, aimed at prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
At USC and other research institutions, federal research funds are a crucial investment in ensuring innovation and a better quality of life for our citizens.
Vice President for Research, USC