University spending on research and development (R&D) continued to increase from fiscal year (FY) 2010 to 2011, reaching $65 billion. This is an increase of 6.3 percent from FY 2010 (4.3 percent after adjusting for inflation), according to data from the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey. Much of the increase was due to $4.2 billion in federal funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Another $533 million in increased expenditures was due to an increase in the number of universities surveyed.

Among non-federal funding sources, only non-profit organizations and academic institutions themselves contributed more in FY 2011 than in FY 2010; funding by state and local government, business, and other sources remained almost static.

Of the broad academic categories surveyed, the life sciences accounted for the largest portion of spending, which increased 6.6 percent to $37.2 billion in FY 2011. The majority of that funding ($20.4 billion) went to medical fields. Engineering was responsible for the next largest portion of university R&D spending, showing a 7.7 percent increase to $10 billion. Environmental sciences increased to $3.2 billion (5.8 percent increase). Funding in non-science and engineering, including fields such as education, law, business, and communications, rose rapidly to $3.2 billion, a 10.5 percent increase.

Of the institutions surveyed, the top thirty universities, as far as R&D expenditures, accounted for 40.1 percent of total academic R&D spending. The universities comprising that group remained virtually unchanged from FY 2010 to FY 2011. Only the University of Southern California left the group, moving from position 28 to 31, and Harvard ascended into the top thirty institutions.

The full report and survey results can be found at


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