The top 100 colleges and universities that spent on R&D in 2020

Growth slowed but research was still robust across a range of fields, especially health sciences.

Though total research and development spending at higher education institutions grew more slowly than in any period since 2015 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, spending still increased by $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2020.

Of the $86.4 billion total noted in the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey, nearly half went toward health sciences and biomedical sciences, far outpacing most other initiatives. The total was triple what was spent on engineering, for example.

Far and away the biggest recipient and spender of R&D funds was Johns Hopkins University, which had more than $3.1 billion in expenditures, including its Applied Physics Lab ($1.9 billion). Twenty other institutions spent more than $1 billion, including these others in the top five: the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor ($1.67B), the University of California at San Francisco ($1.65B), the University of Pennsylvania ($1.58B) and the University of Washington at Seattle ($1.46B).

One institution that saw a big boost to its R&D bottom line was the University of Arizona, which spent $27 million more in FY 2020 than in 2019 to move into No. 35 overall. It also maintained its hold on the top spot in expenditures related to astronomy and astrophysics and cracked the top 50 in engineering.

“The latest HERD data demonstrate the robustness and continual growth of our research enterprise, despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic that took hold in early 2020,” said Elizabeth Cantwell, senior vice president for research and innovation. “At the heart of this success are our faculty and researchers, whose creativity and determination drive discovery and innovation, creating positive real-world impacts and knowledge for a more resilient future.”

The University of Wisconsin-Madison came in at No. 8, increasing its overall total by more than $65 million from the previous fiscal year. Like many other research institutions, its team approach in addressing COVID-19-related needs has been a top priority, with 80 research grants going toward helping in the global crisis. “I’m especially proud that our campus research community provides a backbone to the Wisconsin Idea in areas such as timely and critical public health response,” said Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education at UW. “We see this in the university’s research response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in our efforts to ensure significant continuing advances in STEM, the arts, education and the social sciences.”

Most dollars enjoyed by colleges and universities and their researchers in FY 2020 came from the federal government, though institutional funding accounted for around one-quarter of the total. Businesses ($5.8B), nonprofits ($5.8B) and state government also were key contributors to the overall pool in helping back academic studies and surveys in higher ed.

Other areas that ranged among the highest expenditures included agricultural sciences ($3.4B), geosciences ($3.19B), electrical engineering ($2.9B), social sciences ($2.8B), computer and information sciences ($2.64B), and physics ($2.3B).

Here is the rest of the top 100 from the 915 colleges and universities that spent more than $150,000 in research and development in FY 2020:

  1. University of California, San Diego, $1,403,735
  2. University of California, Los Angeles, $1,392,941
  3. University of Wisconsin-Madison, $1,363,931
  4. Harvard University, $1,239,983
  5. Stanford University, $1,203,950
  6. Duke University, $1,196,638
  7. Cornell University, $1,190,063
  8. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, $1,159,725
  9. Texas A&M University, College Station, $1,130,803
  10. University of Pittsburgh, $1,105,532
  11. University of Maryland, $1,103,062
  12. Yale University, $1,094,135
  13. University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, $1,051,297
  14. Georgia Institute of Technology, $1,048,988
  15. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, $1,042,382
  16. Columbia University, $1,032,909
  17. Pennsylvania State University, $991,923
  18. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, $987,968
  19. Ohio State University, $968,260
  20. New York University, $947,293
  21. University of Florida, $942,223
  22. University of Southern California, $941,198
  23. Washington University, Saint Louis, $920,215
  24. Northwestern University, $874,671
  25. University of California, Berkeley, $840,000
  26. Vanderbilt University, $824,803
  27. University of California, Davis, $816,693
  28. Emory University, $808,792
  29. University of Texas, Austin, $797,199
  30. University of Arizona, $760,975
  31. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, $747,014
  32. Indiana University, Bloomington, $728,554
  33. Michigan State University, $713,197
  34. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, $689,176
  35. Rutgers University, $688,077
  36. Purdue University, West Lafayette, $687,144
  37. Baylor College of Medicine, $685,641
  38. Arizona State University, $673,357
  39. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, $652,002
  40. University of Alabama, Birmingham, $618,226
  41. University of Utah, $607,061
  42. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, $595,939
  43. Boston University, $583,267
  44. Virginia Tech University, $556,341
  45. University of Colorado, Denver, $554,643
  46. North Carolina State University, $546,290
  47. University of Iowa, $538,583
  48. University of Cincinnati, $530,138
  49. University of Colorado, Boulder, $525,674
  50. University of California, Irvine, $490,597
  51. University of Georgia, $482,786
  52. University of Chicago, $458,891
  53. California Institute of Technology, $449,651
  54. Oregon Health and Science University, $446,890
  55. Scripps Research Institute, $444,964
  56. Case Western Reserve University, $439,778
  57. SUNY-Buffalo, $422,038
  58. University of Kentucky, 417,674
  59. University of Illinois, Chicago, $412,147
  60. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, $407,302
  61. University of Rochester, $397,211
  62. Princeton University, $396,502
  63. Carnegie Mellon University, $386,996
  64. University of Miami, $381,410
  65. University of Kansas, $368,811
  66. Iowa State University, $363,107
  67. University of Oklahoma, Norman, $362,209
  68. Rockefeller University, $356,217
  69. SUNY Polytechnic Institute, $355,651
  70. Florida State University, $350,430
  71. Washington State University, $335,201
  72. University of South Florida, $333,344
  73. University of Missouri, Columbia, $332,180
  74. Dartmouth College, $326,349
  75. Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences , $324,510
  76. University of Nebraska, Lincoln $320,463
  77. University of Tennessee, Knoxville $320,407
  78. Utah State University $304,256
  79. Temple University $299,707
  80. Albert Einstein College of Medicine $288,654
  81. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge $286,733
  82. Virginia Commonwealth University, $283,874
  83. Mississippi State University, $280,485
  84. University of Connecticut, $280,131
  85. University of Massachusetts, Medical School, $279,096
  86. University of Hawaii, Manoa, $275,929
  87. University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, $273,862
  88. Medical University of South Carolina, $272,590
  89. George Washington University, $270,369
  90. Oregon State University, 268,385
  91. Brown University, $266,127
  92. Medical College of Wisconsin, $264,325
  93. SUNY-Stony Brook, $263,470
  94. Georgetown University, $258,659
  95. Auburn University, $255,281
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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