Guest Column
Why Florida’s future is brighter with UF hitting the $1 billion mark in research spending | Column
We are changing the lives of people for the better in our state, our nation and around the world.
University of Florida researchers Rob Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul look at plates containing plants grown in samples of soil collected from the moon.
University of Florida researchers Rob Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul look at plates containing plants grown in samples of soil collected from the moon. [ TYLER JONES | University of Florida ]
Published Jul. 20, 2022|Updated Jul. 20, 2022

The University of Florida’s research enterprise achieved a major milestone this year when, for the first time, annual research spending surpassed $1 billion.

There are only about 15 public universities in the U.S. that have achieved this mark — an accomplishment that highlights not only the excellence of UF’s faculty, staff and students, but also the commitment of the institution to pursue meaningful research that impacts the state, nation and world.

While $1 billion a year in research is a remarkable feat, it is the impact of our research in advancing knowledge, creating new technologies and powering Florida’s economy that really counts.

For example, UF Health has major research thrusts that are seeking cures for cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders and other diseases, where scientists and physicians work together to create hope through new treatments and therapies for patients in Florida and beyond.

David P. Norton
David P. Norton [ Provided ]

Through the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), UF ranks first among U.S. universities in total research spending for agriculture. With IFAS, Florida’s agricultural industry has the most powerful research engine in the country behind it, ensuring that farmers of almost 100 different commodities, from citrus to strawberries to pine trees, have the most recent science and technologies at their disposal.

At the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, faculty are shaping the future by developing new technologies for health care, resilient communities, cybersecurity and the connected world.

In fact, across all our 16 colleges and hundreds of centers and institutes, UF researchers are helping to make life better. They’re improving the effectiveness of teaching, whether in a classroom or online. They’re using the arts to give voice to communities and the individual. They’re exploring Mars for signs of life and preparing to sustain human life on the moon by growing plants in soil brought back from the Apollo 11 mission.

But our research mission does not end with discovery. The University of Florida excels at translating research into impact through commercialization. UF’s success in technology transfer and company incubation has been recognized both nationally and internationally. Our Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator has, in the past 10 years, been named the top incubator in the world three times. Our newest incubator, the Hub, has also received global recognition as the best in its class.

And this past May, a nonpartisan think tank known as Heartland Forward released a study of all research universities in the U.S., comprehensively measuring the effectiveness of each at translating research discoveries into impact within the marketplace. This was not a beauty contest based on reputation; it was a metrics-driven assessment whose scoring placed a higher bar for large institutions versus smaller ones. According to this report, the University of Florida ranked first among public universities and second among all U.S. universities at infusing research and discovery into private industry through commercializing discoveries and producing graduates in science and technology.

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When it comes to university research that impacts the state of Florida, the University of Florida does not stand alone. The State University System of Florida currently ranks first among university systems in education and fifth nationally in total research.

Our state universities are advancing science that benefits Floridians now and in the future. Researchers are working to understand hurricane impacts at Florida International University’s Wall of Wind. They are exploring new quantum technologies at Florida State University’s MagLab and developing solar technologies at the University of South Florida’s Clean Energy Research Center. And they are improving coastal resilience through the Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems at Florida A&M University. The state’s research enterprise is critically important as Florida expands its footprint in the globally competitive high technology economy and lays the groundwork for economic security for our children and grandchildren.

At the University of Florida, it is the impact of new discoveries that defines what our research is really all about — why we work so hard to secure funding and to be accountable for every dollar spent.

The University of Florida’s $1 billion-a-year research enterprise is essential for Florida’s citizens and for its future economy. We are changing the lives of people for the better in our state, our nation and around the world.

David P. Norton is the vice president for research at the University of Florida.