Oregon State University announced Monday that it accumulated a quarter of a billion dollars in research money last year. As Rob Manning reports, OSU finds itself raking in private and federal money, at the same it’s grappling with deep state budget cuts.
Oregon State President Ed Ray announced the research total as part of an address about the university’s economic impact on Oregon.
Ed Ray: “I’m pleased to announce in the ’08-’09, OSU researchers earned a record 252.16 million dollars in external funding for scientific projects.”
About two thirds of that comes from federal sources, like the National Science Foundation, with the rest mostly from private sources. At the same time that OSU officials are trumpeting the school’s positive effect on the state’s economy, they’re reeling from the negative effects of state budget cuts.
Ray says on one hand, a “dollar is a dollar,” and the grant money helps the school’s bottom line. But it’s not a cure-all.
Ed Ray: “The research dollars that we bring in – you know, people don’t give you research grants to spend on other things, they expect – there’s a quid pro quo, there’s got to be a product.”
Terri Fiez is the head of electrical engineering and computer science at OSU. She says researchers are learning that it’s harder and harder to find money for research that doesn’t have a clear commercial application.
Terri Fiez: “Not every faculty member, but a large percentage of them are thinking ‘I have an idea – now where’s the commercialization impact’.”
Fiez has just returned to OSU after spending more than a year working with former graduate students to bring a solar energy converter to market. Her new company, Azuray Technologies, is looking for venture capital.
Meantime, even with all that research money coming in, President Ray wants to streamline the university.
Ed Ray: “We need to flatten the organization, we need to narrow the scope of the things that we offer.”
The state board of higher education is set to approve campus budgets at its October meeting. OSU would see an 11 percent cut, if the finance committee’s recommendation is approved.