UCF research awards have been steadily increasing since 2016.

2021 Another Record Year – Five Consecutive Years of Rising Research Funding

By: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala on

Despite a pandemic that slowed the economy; delayed or derailed some federal and private agencies’ spending plans; and frustrated supply chains, UCF generated $212.9 million in research awards — up more than $8 million from 2020.

The total doesn’t include any CARES nor Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds, which the federal government provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our faculty and staff have worked tirelessly during very challenging times,” says Elizabeth Klonoff, vice president for Research and Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. “But their passion for research and creative works is demonstrated not only in another record year of funding but in the tangible fruits of their labor — innovations, and contributions that enrich our human experience.”

For example, Engineering Professor Sudipta Seal, College of Medicine Professor Griff Parks, and Christina Drake ’07PhD, the founder of Kismet Technologies, developed a nanoparticle-based disinfectant that can continuously kill viruses on a surface for up to seven days. The technology, recently described in an academic journal, is expected to be helpful in handling future pandemics.

Associate Professor of Film Lisa Mills and Associate Professor of History Robert Cassanello’s collaboration led to the award-winning documentary Marching Forward. The film is about how band directors at two Orlando segregated high schools — one black and one white — crossed the color line and worked together to take their students on the trip of a lifetime to the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It aired nationally and showcased unity in a time of much national unrest.

And various faculty and students also secured projects to support NASA’s Artemis mission to the moon and with commercial companies pioneering new ways to help humans explore the solar system.

2021 By the Numbers

UCF is a metropolitan research university that works with many local and national partners. Of the $212.9 million in sponsored research awards, $128.78 million came from federal agencies, such as the U.S. National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Defense, among others. State and local government provided $41.83 million while industry provided another $42.3 million.

The Florida Space Institute generated the most funding with $44 million, followed by the College of Engineering and Computer Science with $35.6 million and the College of Community Innovation and Education with $26.19 million. The College of Sciences with $25.97 million and the College of Optics and Photonics with $21.4 million round out the top five.

The Faculty Research Clusters, which aim to bring interdisciplinary teams together to solve more complex problems, continue to see an increase in research awards as well, generating $7.6 million among the nine clusters.

Record-Setting Five Years

Sponsored research awards (grants and contracts) have been on an upward trajectory since 2016. The steady climb began at $145.8 million to reach $212.9 million. Looking back to 2008, there has not been a period of five consecutive years of growth until now. The longest streak was three years from 2008-2010.

The expertise of our faculty and passion for discovery has led the way. The Office of Research has played a role as well.

Since Klonoff arrived in 2016, the office of Research began implementing a host of changes to enhance the research enterprise at UCF. Among the many changes was creating other funding opportunities for faculty. For example, in 2020 a total of $588,619 was awarded in the university’s first larger-scale SEED funding program. Klonoff launched the program in late 2019 to help researchers generate baseline data to go after big proposals. The return on investment: $6.96 million in external funding to date.

To read more about this year’s research success stories, some of the changes in the Office of Research, and to get the latest data available check out the 2020-2021 Office of Research Annual Report, which was released Oct. 12.

“Our initiatives and investments are paying off,” Klonoff says. “I am grateful to our wonderful team for working so hard to be a service to our faculty. By listening and working together we can continue to achieve great things.”

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