Research funding in the College of Engineering and Applied Science reached $105 million overall in fiscal year 2018. That is the highest total ever for the college.
Awards had totaled $78 million in fiscal year 2016 and $82 million in 2017.
“This is a tremendous milestone for the college and a great reflection on the important work being done here every day,” said Dean Bobby Braun. “More significantly, this research is driving the economic competitiveness of our state, national security and the quality of life of people around the world.”
Associate Dean for Research Keith Molenaar said the main reasons for the record year include the extraordinary faculty at the college and a forward-looking push into new and collaborative research areas with tangible impacts at the local, regional, national and global levels.
One such initiative is the CU Boulder-led Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership, a five-year incremental, $15 million United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program, involving many CU Boulder faculty. It explores systems-based approaches to improving the sustainability of water and sanitation services in developing countries around the globe.
Another high-profile project in the college is a $2 million four-year award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency led by CU Boulder faculty looking at sustainable, living building materials like mortar made from bacteria. Once developed, these materials could be used in harsh environments like a desert that can crack or warp traditional materials. CU Boulder is one of a few places in the world doing this kind of work.
Many of the faculty leaders on these projects are part of one of the college’s new Interdisciplinary Research Themes that started last year said Molenaar. Recognizing the growing importance of these kinds of transdisciplinary projects, the college created six themes to provide a focus for its internal investments.
“These six themes were chosen from 29 extremely creative and ambitious faculty proposals in high-impact research areas,” he said. “The work coming out of these themes touches personalized medicine, quantum engineering, energy, water, national security and much more. Increased award dollars means we can continue to tackle these and other important societal issues for years to come.”
Award money at the college comes from a variety of sources, the largest being federal programs like the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and NASA. Industry-sponsored research accounts for 13 percent of the overall total, and is increasing over time said Molenaar.
“One of our big goals is to diversify our research portfolio. We have started to look at ways of increasing research collaboration with our industry partners like Lockheed Martin and Ball Corporation, as well as groups like the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for example,” Molenaar said.
Research awards across the campus totaled $511 million in 2018. This is the second year in a row the university has received over half-billion dollars in sponsored projects funding after receiving $507 million in 2017.