Report Examines the Business of University Research

Posted: Updated:
The annual research expenditures of Notre Dame total $191 million. The annual research expenditures of Notre Dame total $191 million.

Corporate giants like Eli Lilly and Company, Dow AgroSciences or Roche Diagnostics are likely top of mind as major players in Indiana’s life sciences economy. However, viewing the state’s three research universities as a single entity uncovers an equally powerful giant in Indiana. A new report says the $1.3 billion direct research expenditures of Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame more than quadruple the annual economic impact of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Beyond their monetary might, the universities have a legacy of bringing innovation to our daily lives; Notre Dame scientists discovered neoprene—the first synthetic rubber—in 1930, IU researchers pioneered the now widely-used echocardiogram, and Purdue is driving the creation of next-generation biofuels.

“The Importance of Research Universities” report, prepared for the state’s life sciences initiative BioCrossroads, translates how such innovation impacts Indiana’s economy.

“Measuring universities as economic assets in the state seems like a pretty old-fashioned concept, but it really isn’t,” says BioCrossroads President and Chief Executive Officer David Johnson.

He recalls, when the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership was formed in 1999, its organizers had “the late thought” to add IU and Purdue to the group.  

“Because for the first time, businesses were starting to see universities as sources of innovation and economic activity in ways they never had before,” says Johnson. “There’s been an evolution in thinking of research universities, increasingly, not as ivory towers, but actually as economic actors in a number of ways.”

The report, written by Ohio-based TEConomy Partners LLC, reveals areas of expertise that overlap among the universities, highlighting research subjects that could benefit from further investment of minds and money.

“[University researchers] are a little too siloed; I think academicians have a tendency to do that just naturally, because they’ve got their head down working hard,” says Notre Dame McCloskey Dean of Engineering Dr. Peter Kilpatrick. “But these are important enough issues that taking advantage of the report makes a lot of sense for the state.”

The report shows Indiana is “punching above its weight” in academic research output, producing a greater percentage of academic publications than expected in accordance to the state’s population. Analyzing the universities also exposes areas where the state needs to build muscle. Johnson says many found it surprising that, compared to their peers, the Indiana universities aren’t getting as much federal research funding “despite their excellence.”

“The national norm is about 55 percent of a preeminent research university’s funding comes from federal funding, and [Indiana] is closer to 40 or 41 percent,” says Johnson. “That means the universities are having to make up that difference. It’s not coming from state funding, philanthropy is involved, and there’s still a 14-point gap between what you’d expect to see in federal funding and what we’re actually getting.”

He believes the finding reinforces the need for Hoosier businesses and the research universities to have more of a two-way exchange. The report says business-financed research makes up 6 percent of R&D funding at U.S. universities, but Indiana falls below that at 5 percent.

“[Purdue President Mitch Daniels] has said that, for too long, companies doing research haven’t thought about licensing that research closer to home,” says Johnson. “And likewise, universities have been very, very focused on federal funding and haven’t spent as much time thinking about how they could work in really productive collaborations with industry.”

Indiana life sciences and university leaders believe the state is improving its ecosystem, launching several collaborative efforts in recent years, such as 16 Tech, the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute and Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. Dr. Marietta Harrison, special advisor for strategic initiatives at the Purdue Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships, believes Indiana is overcoming its perception as “a flyover state,” making it “a place that is of value on its own.”

“The state and universities are hand-in-hand addressing the issue. I’ve been at Purdue 35 years, and it just seems to get better and better,” says Harrison. “It’s slowly spiraling up, and that spiral is getting quicker and quicker. As the state and research universities—major assets in Indiana—address this issue, we will get stronger and stronger.”

Harrison says Purdue is exceptionally strong in analytical chemistry, engineering, agriculture and, in general, its ability to transfer technology.
Johnson says the universities’ roles of producing a STEM-trained workforce and attracting talent are increasingly important for economic development.
Kilpatrick believes the state could use its power to stimulate more collaboration among Indiana’s research universities.
  • Perspectives

    • The Evolution of Business: From Bottom Line to Value Creation And Impact

      In today's world, consumers want to know how corporations, as a whole, are taking a stand. In fact, customers are 43 percent more likely to purchase a product from a company they know is committed to social value. It's not just consumers pushing this trend. Financial service industry leaders, like KeyBank's Beth Mooney and BlackRock's Larry Fink, are challenging business owners and the C-Suite to rethink their economic impact, environmental footprint and social conscience.



Company Name:
Confirm Email:
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections


  • Most Popular Stories

    • St. Vincent Announces Layoffs

      St. Vincent Health says it has laid off 85 employees throughout the state. In a statement to Inside INdiana Business, St. Vincent cites a rapidly-evolving healthcare environment as a reason for the workforce reduction. 

    • Indy Firm Taps Appirio Exec as CEO

      An Indianapolis-based design and innovation consulting firm has named a new chief executive officer. Studio Science says Steve Pruden, who most recently served as senior vice president of human resources with Indy tech company Appirio, will lead the company.

    • The work is expected to be complete by August 2020.

      Jasper Company Earns Military Contract

      Jasper-based Krempp Construction has earned a nearly $17 million military contract. The deal involves the construction of new buildings at Naval Support Activity Crane in southern Indiana, as well as the demolition of 11 buildings. The contract with the U.S. navy calls on Krempp to construct a shipping and receiving building, as well as an ammunition production building for plating metal munition parts. The deal also involves railroad, utility, lighting, infrastructure and...

    • Governor Eric Holcomb will be the keynote speaker at this week's event.

      Holcomb to Make FFA Announcement

      Governor Eric Holcomb will Monday join officials from the National FFA Organization and AgriNovus Indiana to make an announcement regarding this year's National FFA Convention & Expo in downtown Indianapolis. The FFA says the announcement will impact 650,000 student members nationwide.

    • Fishers to Break Ground on 'The Yard'

      Officials will Thursday break ground on a $110 million culinary and entertainment hub in Fishers. When complete, The Yard at Fishers District will feature restaurants and a culinary accelerator, in addition to hotel, residential and retail space.