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IU brings in record amount of money for research, philanthropy

  • Aug. 12, 2016

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Michael Reschke 

In the fiscal year that just ended, Indiana University brought in more money than it ever has before.

External funding for research, combined with private philanthropy, totaled $943.2 million. That’s up from $766.7 million in fiscal 2015.

The largest chunk of that total comes from about $614 million in external funding for research and other activities, an increase of about 14 percent from the previous fiscal year. Leaders at IU say that is good news for the state.

“Research budgets aren’t going up around the country,” said Fred Cate, vice president for research at IU. “It really suggests we’re getting a bigger piece of that federal pie in terms of that research funding. That’s especially good news for Hoosiers, because we’re bringing in federal dollars.”

In the short term, that means more money to hire people, but it also could lead to improvements in everything from health care to information technology.

“We have to keep making the point that the impact of research directly affects their lives,” said IU President Michael McRobbie, referring to Indiana residents.

While McRobbie said IU’s research funding total is more than all other public universities in the state combined, he could not say how the university’s total compares with other Big Ten institutions because he doesn’t have those numbers yet.

“They sort of drift in,” he said. “Historically, we’ve been around the middle and moving up, but there’s no reporting deadline for these numbers.”

On the private philanthropy side, IU brought in more than $329 million in philanthropic gifts, compared with about $226 million the previous fiscal year. Dan Smith, president of the IU Foundation, said the increase is largely due to two factors. The first is enthusiasm surrounding new programs and schools, he said, such as the Media School and the engineering program.

“The second thing is, I think that we are fortunate to have a lot of friends and alumni who care a great deal about Indiana University and feel very positive about it right now,” he said.

Looking toward the future, Smith said the key to sustaining a high level of philanthropic gifts is to continue spreading the word about what’s going on at IU and to identify areas in which friends and alumni are most likely to provide support.

As for research dollars, McRobbie said a lot of excellent faculty have been recruited in recent years, and the university is just beginning to see the effect of their ability to obtain grants. He also expects IU’s Grand Challenges program, which was announced last fall, to have a substantial impact.

The program will provide at least $300 million over the next five years to teams of researchers who submit proposals aimed at solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.

The hope is that money will allow the teams to make enough progress that private companies and organizations such as the National Institutes of Health will invest in the projects.

“We’re going to see the impact of that, in terms of getting grants, become quite substantial,” McRobbie said.

McRobbie will make a presentation on the numbers today to the IU Board of Trustees at its meeting in Presidents Hall of Franklin Hall on the Bloomington campus.