Engineering Sets Another Record in Total External Funding

Friday, August 1, 2014

University of Iowa President Sally Mason on Friday announced that total external funding rose to $515.8 million in Fiscal Year 2014, a 1.9 percent ($9.5 million) increase over the previous year.

The College of Engineering performed even higher than the overall university gains.  The college's Fiscal Year external funding totalled $32,536,905, a 3.0 percent ($935,085) increase over the Fiscal Year 2013 figure of $31,601,820.

UI Vice President for Research and Economic Development Daniel Reed said the funding portfolio is more diverse, reflecting gains in support for transportation and other basic research.

"We are particularly pleased that our researchers are more aggressively establishing partnerships with industry," Dan Reed, vice president for research and economic development for the university, said.

The announcement was made at a news conference at the UI Research Park’s National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS), a unit of the College of Engineering's Center for Computer-Aided Design.

“Despite a challenging economic climate, we not only maintained our external funding but saw an overall increase of more than $9 million,” Mason said. “This is a result of the collective work of many people, including the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, the UI Foundation, investigators, our state and federal relations staff, and our legislative and congressional delegations.”

Reed said competition for limited research dollars is at an all-time high across the country. He said UI researchers have responded “by playing a new game, seeking additional sources of support, and forging new partnerships.”

Some of the larger gains in external funding in FY14 included areas in which the college participates:

  • Industry/corporate (foreign and domestic): Up $10.2 million, or 13.2 percent
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): Up $2.1 million, or 14.4 percent
  • U.S. Department of Transportation: Up $1.1 million, or 47.5 percent

In FY 2014, the UI received external funding from 157 new sponsors; NSF funding alone included 39 new awards totaling $9.7 million.

“We are particularly pleased that our researchers are more aggressively establishing partnerships with industry,” Reed said. “Industry funding is up 13.2 percent for FY 2014, continuing a five-year upward trend in industry-sponsored research.”

Reed said one prominent area where the UI is building corporate engagement is in its vehicle safety research, primarily through the NADS. Developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Reed said, NADS is “the most sophisticated research-driving simulator in the world and offers the world’s highest fidelity real-time driving simulation experience.”

In fact, NADS officials just completed a yearlong project to upgrade the driving simulator's visual system. The project involved installing 16 new LED projectors and rebuilding the computer video boards and software to display richer, clearer 3D images than ever before. This coincides with the development of new software that generates more realistic pedestrians, making it one of the most realistic virtual driving experiences ever.

To speak about some of the latest vehicle research, Reed introduced Daniel V. McGehee, director of the UI Public Policy Center’s Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Research Program. McGehee serves as principal investigator on three automotive safety grants funded last year with $17.2 million established by the Toyota Economic Loss class action settlement in California.

Projects that will result from the grants include a national survey on public perceptions of vehicle safety technologies, a national education campaign on vehicle safety technology, a study at NADS that replicates emergency events in a controlled and safe environment, and a study in the UI Department of Neurology to measure and improve younger and older driver behavior when accelerating and decelerating.

McGehee said “Our strong interdisciplinary research in automotive safety contributes significantly to the UI’s long-standing success and opens the door to future partnerships.”

One example is the potential for Iowa to become the first state to implement automated vehicle technology on its roadways.

McGehee said the combination of a business-friendly environment, Iowa Department of Transportation support, and the presence of a major research university that has a world-class driving simulator could make Iowa especially attractive to trucking companies looking for somewhere to road test advanced technologies. He said these technologies promise to improve safety and increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles, trucks in particular.

He said the UI has been involved in automated vehicle and driver-assist technology research for two decades and has a long relationship with the auto industry.

“These current and emerging partnerships will further solidify our reputation as one of the nation’s leading transportation research hubs,” he said.