President's Blog

Virginia’s research: back-of-the-envelope calculations

Virginia accounts for about 3% of America’s $14 trillion GDP, yet Virginia’s universities account for about 2% of America’s $65 billion in university research grants. The largest recipients of federal research grants are, in descending order, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, VCU, ODU, George Mason University and the College of William and Mary (together they account for 93% of the total coming to Virginia’s universities).

If we wanted our research share to match our economic share (3% of the total), we would need to increase today’s federal funding level from about $1.3 billion to about $1.9 billion, or a 47% increase (Mason’s share of this increase would be about $50 million).

Experts estimate an unrecovered cost to the receiving institution of about 18 cents per research grant dollar.  This would mean that the Commonwealth would have to invest about $108 million of indirect research support to bring in the additional $600 million.  Though significant, this is a highly leveraged investment, and one with direct and significant impact on the competitiveness and future economic prosperity of the Commonwealth.