Researchers and their salaries benefit community
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Courtesy of FSU Photography Services
A graduate student works at the High-Performance Materials Institute, which is part of the FSU Office of Research and is located in Innovation Park.
According to the Brookings Institution, two-thirds of the most influential technologies of the past 50 years have been developed at national laboratories and universities. Consider the smartphone, autonomous vehicle technology and other innovations that are transforming our way of life. They all owe key technological components to research and development activities that are federally funded and reside in local communities.
By fostering this research and advancements, the federal government plays a key role in economic development. As Brookings expert Scott Andres puts it, these investments “come to ground” in communities across the country, and these regions share in the economic benefits of research.
This is certainly true for Tallahassee and Florida State University. To date, FSU researchers have been awarded 506 patents — that directly or indirectly contribute to manufacturing, business processes, creative license and other positive effects on the economic health of the local area.
Bringing in the Funding
In total, 6,374 local people were employed by FSU in 2014-15 (the latest available figures), and that doesn’t include faculty and part-time OPS positions. In addition to the sheer number of households supported by FSU’s payroll, research and development funds are a growing and important economic driver for the Tallahassee economy.
Dr. Gary Ostrander, vice president for research for FSU, estimates FSU pulled in $200 million in funding from federal, state and other sources in 2017. In 2016, these grant awards impacted the local economy in many ways, but most heavily through the major salaries that are paid to faculty and research staff.
Ostrander explains that typically, a lead researcher will earn about $75,000 in salary. A graduate student that works half-time will earn anywhere from $20,000-30,000 per year. A medical researcher with an MD in the College of Medicine earns $100,000 or more, and at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, those salaries easily exceed six figures.
In terms of economic development, this impact is huge. These salaries feed into the local economy in the form of taxes (local, sales and property), retail activity, philanthropy, and even entrepreneurial pursuits by these professionals and their families. The latest figures indicate a $3.50-$4.50 per dollar multiplier into the local economy.
Besides salaries and economic multipliers, FSU rewards faculty innovation through patent royalties and income, and profit-sharing from copyrights.
In its current structure, for the first $10,000 in royalties/income, FSU allows 85 percent of that to go to the inventor(s) and the remaining 15 percent feeds back into the FSU research foundation. For proceeds over $10,000, it is split by 40 percent to the inventor(s), 30 percent to the inventors’ department and 30 percent to the research foundation.
In a similar way, authors retain 50 percent of copyright proceeds and royalties, and the other half is split between the research foundation and the author’s academic unit.
Through this incentive approach, FSU faculty are sharing in the fruits of their innovation, but they also enjoy additional funding for the programs in which they work, hopefully furthering their capacity for more and more research and groundbreaking creativity.
Courtesy of FSU Photography Services
Graduate research assistant Ted Worden works in the anechoic jet facility at the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion, located in Innovation Park.
The Research Life Cycle
The September 2017 Monthly Award Report from FSU’s Office of Research showed a total of $6,351,099 in total research grants revenue. Of those, the main funding sources were: National Institutes of Health ($3,190,599), State of Florida ($1,520,088), Department of Defense ($1,133,316), National Science Foundation ($271,176), and the U.S. Department of Education ($119,229).
These numbers are the result of countless hours spent by dozens of researchers, faculty and staff that are writing proposals, finding funding, managing award dollars and sharing results of their efforts. This machine is a major part of what FSU’s Office of Research does, and it pays big dividends to the university and to the local economy.
FSU offers help to researchers in the form of idea generation, collaborator matching, proposal writing, boilerplate material, training and workshops, and more.
In October 2017, FSU announced it brought in $35.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in fiscal year 2017 (ending on Sept. 30), more than double the amount the university received five years prior. This grant award positioned FSU as one of the leaders in the state for health and biomedical research, ranking it fifth in the state for NIH funding — ahead of the Mayo Clinic and Moffitt Cancer Center.
According to FSU, the Florida Legislature’s designation of FSU as one of the state’s two preeminent universities and the funding tied to that designation allowed the university to hire additional faculty in the areas of health science and more. This trickle-down effect means more researchers proposing more funding and an increase in awards from federal sources.
The research labs, centers and institutes that report to the FSU Office of Research include: the Aeropopulsion Mechatronics & Energy Center, the Center for Advanced Power Systems, the National Magnetic High Field Laboratory, FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory, Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion, Florida Climate Institute, Future Fuels Institute, High-Performance Materials Institute, and the Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine.
Ostrander points out that while larger projects come with major funding, smaller projects still employ students and staff. And many technologies don’t end up having the same impact as did Taxol (the famed breast cancer drug developed at FSU), which included residuals of $352 million that FSU used to build buildings, invest in endowment and is still using to further projects on campus.
Many of the technologies these grants produce, he points out, don’t lead to company startups, but they are often acquired and provide royalties, income and money for salaries, buildings and more even after the grants conclude.
FSU Research Economic Impact Snapshot for 2014-15*
- Total research and development budget expenditures by FSU exceeded $256 million
- Total amount of sponsored research was more than $200 million
- FSU generated $6 billion of direct revenue or expense, with $9.94 billion worth of industry output and 94,160 jobs
- Revenue generated by FSU created an additional $3.82 billion of labor income, $1.78 billion of property income, and $501.8 million in business taxes
*Most recent available data