Iowa State sets federal research funding record

Iowa State attracted a total of $494.7 million in external funding for the fiscal year that ended June 30, including a record amount of federal funding for research projects.

That total is an increase of $25.6 million, or 5.5%, over the 2019 fiscal year's $469 million. Federal support for Iowa State research hit a record $186 million, an increase of $4.9 million, or 2.7%, over the previous record of $181.1 million in FY19.

A major contributor to that record was support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which jumped from $23.6 million in FY19 to $47.8 million this past fiscal year. That USDA support included five awards of more than $1 million from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, including a $10 million grant to expand the Iowa State-based Consortium for Cultivating Human And Naturally reGenerative Enterprises (known as C-CHANGE) and $2.9 million to build on the Genomes to Fields Initiative that's studying the interactions of plant genomes and crop environments.

Another major federal grant -- $20 million over five years from the National Institute of Standards and Technology -- will support the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence based at Iowa State.

"I really believe the 2020 fiscal and academic year is a study in both perseverance and relevance," said Guru Rao, interim vice president for research. "Our research community as a whole, persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic -- and continues to do so -- to deliver relevant research that further builds on Iowa State's legacy as a trusted and valued partner to both federal and non-federal sponsors alike."

External research funding

Iowa State attracted a total of $253 million in external research funding during the last fiscal year. That's $7.9 million, or 3%, below the $260.9 million record set in FY19. A portion of this funding is supporting several research projects related to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Those projects include development of a paper-strip urine test for the virus and statistical modeling and prediction of deaths caused by the disease.

In addition to grants supporting research, external funding also provides academic support, scholarships and more. The funding can include contracts, gifts and cooperative agreements from federal, state and local governments, as well as from corporations, nonprofits and other universities.

While federal research jumped to record levels this past fiscal year, non-federal research funding was nearly $67 million, down $12.9 million, or 16.1%, from FY19's record of $79.8 million.

"Research," Rao said, "plays a critical role in supporting Iowa State University's mission to create, share and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place."


ISU external research funding sources: FY20



   Department of Energy

$65.4 million

   Department of Agriculture

$47.8 million

   National Science Foundation

$31.7 million

   Health and Human Services

$18.6 million

   Department of Commerce

$5.3 million

   Department of Defense

$5.0 million

   Department of Transportation

$4.4 million

   Other federal

$7.8 million

Federal subtotal

$186 million






$19.3 million

   State of Iowa government

$19.3 million

   Higher education

$14.4 million

   Nonprofit organizations

$8.0 million


$4.3 million

   Other non-federal

$1.7 million

Non-federal subtotal

$67 million

Total external research funding

$253 million


A decade of external funding totals


$494.7 million


$469.0 million


$509.2 million


$503.6 million


$425.8 million


$424.9 million


$368.4 million


$326.4 million


$360.2 million


$342.3 million