UC President Napolitano submits testimony to the US Senate urging federal funding for university research

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UC President Janet Napolitano discussed the crucial role federal funding plays in fostering research and innovation on university campuses in a testimony submitted to federal lawmakers Monday.

Submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations on behalf of the university, Napolitano’s statement urges the committee to recognize the importance of maintaining a symbiotic relationship between federal agencies and research universities, especially the University of California, in light of recent budget cuts.

“It is critical that the federal government maintain a strong investment in our nation’s research enterprise to ensure that the United States remains competitive and at the forefront of innovation and scientific and technological advancements,” Napolitano wrote in her testimony.

In addition to securing and maintaining federal funding to universities, Napolitano’s greater message is to help lawmakers understand that the university is more than “an incubator for young minds,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

“The public at large doesn’t understand how critical research is to the nation,” Klein said. “It is just as an integral and equal part of the UC as classroom learning.”

Since World War II, the federal government has been the primary funder of scientific research in universities, according to Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Robert Price. But due to sequestration and budget cutbacks, federal agencies have decreased their funding to universities in the last few years. Napolitano’s testimony reveals that U.S. spending on research has dropped nearly 10 percent since the 1960s.

According to Napolitano’s statement, UC campuses are the largest recipients of federal funding for research. Prior to sequestration, more than 65 percent of funding for research came from federal support in the 2012 fiscal year, with the UC system obtaining nearly $3 billion for research, according to the UC Office of the President. Preliminary data for the following fiscal year, however, showed about a 12 percent decline in federal research awards.

Since the sequester, UC Berkeley experienced about a 16 percent — $62.4 million — cut from its federal research funding, impacting staff and the quality of research infrastructure. Federal agencies, though, continue to sponsor about half of all research projects conducted on campus, Price said.

The Appropriations Committee is set to discuss the subject of Napolitano’s testimony in a hearing called Driving Innovation through Federal Investments, scheduled for Tuesday.

Napolitano’s statement expresses that maintaining the university’s longstanding international reputation as a prominent research institution is one of her primary goals as UC president.

“We need to identify where, in our campus-centric innovation ecosystems, increased investment in technologies and people will create the greatest value given the limited resources we have to deploy,” Napolitano said in her testimony.

Last year, UC researchers announced new inventions at a rate of almost five per day and helped launch 71 startup companies, according to Napolitano’s testimony. Since 2005, UC startups have employed more than 17,000 people, generating about $17 billion in annual revenue.

“UC Berkeley is one of the leading public research universities in the world,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “It is clear that research funding is a key element in building and fostering a vibrant economy, generating jobs and enhancing the public good. It closely connects everything we’re all about.”


Contact Ivy Kim at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ivykim224.