Wichita State University has risen to second among the nation’s universities in aeronautical research and development expenditures, according to the latest information from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.
In fiscal year 2009, Wichita State had $50 million in aeronautical R&D expenditures, compared to $32.9 million in 2008. Wichita State was fourth in 2008 and third in 2007. This $17 million increase in expenditures puts Wichita State just over $1 million behind the top institution, Utah State University, which reported $51.6 million and operates the Space Dynamics Laboratory.
Wichita State’s numbers reflect the efforts of the National Institute for Aviation Research‘s (NIAR) mission to support the local aviation industry by providing research, development, testing and certification.
“I am pleased for the staff at NIAR and everyone who works with us,” said Don Beggs, WSU president. “We work hard to move the industry forward and our No. 2 ranking is indicative of our continued leadership in aviation.”
“It demonstrates that the industry recognizes that research and development play a key role in the economic recovery phase,” said John Tomblin, NIAR executive director. “Because of this and other innovative new partnerships, the institute has experienced unprecedented growth.”
NIAR funding totaled $39.4 million in 2009, which accounted for 79% of the university’s aeronautical R&D expenditures. NIAR funding for 2009 was made up of the following sources:
- Federal contracts, 49%
- Industry contracts, 32%
- NIAR/Industry/State research program, 13%
- Wichita State University, 3%
- Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., 2%
Examples of NIAR’s federal contracts include grants from the FAA for composites research and the Department of Defense for aging aircraft research, specifically life extension of the KC-135 tanker fleet.
Tomblin has spent nearly 15 years developing relationships with these and other agencies to prove NIAR’s expertise and capability in many areas of aeronautical R&D.
“The amount of R&D funding NIAR receives from federal agencies and aircraft manufacturers is a direct reflection of the value the organizations place in R&D and the quality of the research results they receive,” Tomblin said. “NIAR will continue to garner relationships with these and other organizations with the goal of increasing our footprint on aviation R&D.”
Wichita State’s large amount of industry funding was recently noted in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which stated that few universities exceed 5% in industry funding. The article predicts that the relationship Wichita State has developed with the aviation industry could “pave the way” for other universities to increase industry funding of research.