UW-Madison again ranks 8th in nation for research spending | State & Regional


UW-Madison retained its top-10 rank in research spending among hundreds of institutions, according to the latest figures released Monday by the National Science Foundation.

Since the federal agency started surveying universities on their research spending activity in the 1970s, UW-Madison ranked among the top five every year. But the university was bumped to sixth place in 2015 and fell even further, down to eighth, in 2018. Officials at the time attributed the drops to steep state budget cuts and the loss of senior faculty members.

The university retained its No. 8 rank in 2019 and again in the most recent rankings that include 915 public and private institutions that responded to the survey in the 2020 fiscal year.

While the rankings may sound like simply bragging rights, the numbers are closely watched by institutions. The higher a university ranks, the easier it is to attract the brightest minds, build more cutting-edge facilities and compete for additional research money.

With nearly $1.4 billion in annual research spending, up 5.1% from the previous year, UW-Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education Steve Ackerman said in a statement that the university “continues to be an innovation leader.”

Nearly half of UW-Madison’s research money comes from the federal government, with additional support coming from other sources such as the state and local government, nonprofit organizations and foundations that support the university.

Seven institutions spent more than UW-Madison in the most recent survey: Johns Hopkins University; the University of Michigan; the University of California-San Francisco; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Washington; UC-San Diego and UCLA. Rounding out the top 10 were Harvard University and Stanford University.

The university’s level of industry research continues to significantly lag behind these schools. Business funding among others ranged between $50 million at Harvard University and $176 million at the University of Pennsylvania. UW-Madison spent about $30 million.



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