Kansas University researchers did a record amount of work during the past fiscal year, and university officials are starting the process to erect a new laboratory building to accommodate the growth.
Researchers conducted $257.9 million in overall research during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2003, up 6.2 percent from the previous year, KU said Tuesday. External research -- mostly funded by the federal government -- increased 11.4 percent, to $164.6 million.
"The key is that 11 percent increase on sponsored projects," said Jim Roberts, interim vice provost for research. "That one really shows that faculty and other researchers are doing well in generating support."
But the research report also reflected the downturn in the economy, with decreases seen in certain types of research funding.
- KU institutional funds were down 1.9 percent.
- Industry funds were down 6.3 percent.
- Nonprofit funds were down 1.9 percent.
"Even with those areas down, we were able to see an 11 percent increase in external funds, driven by a 16 percent increase by the federal government," Roberts said.
He said he expected KU's research figures to continue improving how the university is ranked for research by the National Science Foundation.
Last year's rankings, based on fiscal year 2001 figures, put KU 45th among public universities for science and engineering research. New rankings are due out later this winter. Chancellor Robert Hemenway has set a goal of having KU among the top 25 public research universities.
"Our researchers at KU continue to fare very well in national competitions for federal dollars," Hemenway said in a prepared statement. "The continued upward growth in research spending is a testament to their strong expertise and solid research."
But continued success could pose problems for KU researchers, Roberts said. That's because KU has run out of laboratory space to grow.
Construction has begun on a 17,000-square-foot Structural Biology Center near the Smissman Research Laboratories on west campus. The new building is projected to cost $3.06 million, financed by $856,000 in state bond money and $2.2 million in leftover overhead money from external grants.
Work already is under way to secure grant funding for an addition to the center once it is complete this fall.
But Roberts said KU would like an additional 100,000 square feet of research space in another building to be built on west campus. He said a bill in the Legislature that would funnel tax dollars from biotech firms could help fund the building.
No time frame has been set for the research building, but Roberts said he expected planning to begin soon.
"That would be very important," he said. "We've maxed out our space."