UCF hit a milestone in sponsored research funding in 2020, generating $204.5 million by the close of the fiscal year on July 31. That’s up from $192.1 million last year and a 40 percent increase since 2016. The College of Engineering and Computer Science led the university with $50.59 million in funding.

The funding came during a time that included two federal government shutdowns, less federal research and development funding, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The upward trend is a result of many factors, including excellent faculty, restructuring the Office of Research and new initiatives that have given faculty additional resources when applying for large, competitive grants, says Elizabeth Klonoff, vice president for the Office of Research.

By the Numbers

Out of the $204.5 million, more than $110.7 million came from federal agencies. State and local government agencies contributed $47.3 million while industry provided $46.4 million.

The College of Engineering and Computer Science generated the most of all colleges with $43.4 million, a number that increases to $50.59 million when including awards for the Center for Research in Computer Vision and other university entities that comprise engineering and computer science faculty.

The Center for Research in Computer Vision made large gains, as well as the Florida Space Institute and the university’s nine Faculty Research Clusters, which are made up of interdisciplinary faculty who are taking on thematic problems such as cybersecurity, coastal sustainability and renewable energy, among others.

“For three consecutive years, the College of Engineering and Computer Science has attained research awards funding productivity exceeding $50 million,” said Michael Georgiopoulos, dean. “This is attributed to the hard, innovative work – and perserverance –of senior and junior faculty alike, and is exemplified by the sustained funding of large awards to multi-disciplinary teams.”

UCF hit a milestone in sponsored research funding in 2020, generating $204.5 million by the close of the fiscal year on July 31. That’s up from $192.1 million last year and a 40 percent increase since 2016. The College of Engineering and Computer Science led the university with $50.59 million in funding.

The funding came during a time that included two federal government shutdowns, less federal research and development funding, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The upward trend is a result of many factors, including excellent faculty, restructuring the Office of Research and new initiatives that have given faculty additional resources when applying for large, competitive grants, says Elizabeth Klonoff, vice president for the Office of Research.

How did we get here?

Faculty are at the heart of any research institution. Since 2016, tenure and tenure-earning faculty have increased from 1,005 to 1,097 as of August 2020. These faculty members, along with researchers and scientists at UCF, have proposed innovative projects that have successfully garnered funding.

Among some of the biggest College of Engineering and Computer Science grants that fell within this fiscal year are:

  • $2.6 million from the National Science Foundation: Seven early-career NSF CAREER awards for faculty in the following departments: Computer Science; Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Materials Science and Engineering; Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
  • $3 million from U.S. Department of Energy: “Building Intelligence with Layered Defense using Security-Constrained Optimization and Security Risk Detection (BUILD-SOS)” (PI Qun Zhou, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • $3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy: “Autonomous Inverter Controls for Resilient and Secure Grid Operation: Vector Control Design for Grid Forming” (PI Zhihua Qu, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • $2.62 million from the National Institutes of Health: “Radiologist-Centered Artificial Intelligence for Lung Cancer Screening and Diagnosis” (PI Ulas Bagci, Center for Research in Computer Vision)

UCF Office of Research

In 2017, the Office of Research began a complete restructuring of its operations to ensure a supportive university process for faculty. Many of the moves bring the office into best practices among universities of similar size. The office created new programs and initiatives to provide faculty opportunities to enhance their proposals especially in competitive arenas that can draw hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants from universities across the nation.

For example, for the past two years, the office conducted a new CAREER awards support program to help junior faculty seeking to secure NSF CAREER awards, which are of at least $500,000 for five years. All 12 UCF professors who received these grants in 2020 had completed the program in 2019.

The Office of Research’s development team runs several programs to support faculty in preparing research proposals, including outreach, proposal reviews and competitive information. Even during the pandemic, this group provided outreach to nearly 500 faculty including workshops with representatives from federal agencies such as NASA and the National Institutes of Health to provide first-hand knowledge about the process.

The Office of Research launched UCF’s first SEED funding program and another program to help position UCF to be more competitive when it comes to large grant funding. The office also helped create a shared facilities agreement on campus involving College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Optics and Photonics and the department of Physics and helping to bear the cost of operations and providing more affordable access to faculty.

This story is adapted from an Aug. 20, 2020 story by Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala, UCF Today.