From the state’s earliest beginnings, research universities have contributed significantly to Indiana’s society and economy. Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame have a powerful impact on our state with a combined 1.44 million living alumni, $1.3 billion in annual research expenditures, and resources that touch all 92 counties. These universities are recognized among the top 150 best institutions in the world and boast alumni and faculty that include 73 National Academies Members, 20 Nobel Prize winners, and three World Food Prize recipients. 

In the fall of 2017, BioCrossroads released a report by TEConomy Partners, The Importance of Research Universities, which provided a comprehensive look at their influence on the state and identifies areas of opportunity.

Our universities’ roles are increasingly important in strengthening our society and economy, and the report highlights the need to advance their unique contributions to our state.

  • For the fall of 2016, the universities’ combined enrollment exceeded 132,000 – enough to fill every seat in Lucas Oil Stadium (70,000 seats) almost two times over.
  • The 2016 research expenditures of Purdue University ($606.3 million), Indiana University ($566.6 million) and Notre Dame ($202.2 million) total almost $1.4 billion.  Combined, these direct research expenditures exceed the direct annual economic impact of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the state by more than four times.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, Indiana institutions produced 59,115 academic publications.  Indiana institutions produced 2.9 percent of all U.S. academic publications, despite the state comprising only 2.1 percent of the total U.S. population.  Indiana is “punching above its weight” in terms of academic research output.

And in a deeper dive into this data, a follow-up study, Assessing R& D Funding Across Indiana’s Major Research Universities, analyzed the universities’ research and development funding to understand why federal sources represent just 41 percent of the total annual research expenditures for Indiana’s universities, compared to 55 percent on average for research universities in other states that receive federal grants and contracts.  It also compares Indiana institutions to the top universities in the U.S. and identifies how investments made by the institutions themselves affect federal funding percentages.

  • While the average of internal program funding for all universities across the U.S. is 28 percent, the rate for the combined Indiana research universities is 36 percent. 
  • The percentage of R&D funding supported by philanthropic dollars is also higher for the combined Indiana universities than found nationally.
  • The investments made by the institutions in the development of research talent and the development and maintenance of high-quality research infrastructure is paying off.  Overall, each of these universities increased the size of its annual R&D portfolio by $120 million or more over the last decade—a level of combined growth that is outpacing the U.S.
  • Indiana’s research institutions are successful at attracting funding from a wide variety of sources, and are all performing in the top quartile of research funding for all universities.  In fact, Indiana University and Purdue University each perform above the average of all top-quartile institutions in total research funding.

R&D funding is both a measure of performance and a driver of innovation.  Research universities are ranked based on the level of federal funding received on an annual basis, and there is a measure of prestige gained from receiving such funding.  And, while federal funding represents a significant portion of all R&D budgets, funding also comes from business, state and local governments, philanthropic sources, and other external sources as well as institutional support provided by the research university itself. 

Indiana University

IU’s total R&D spending, federal funding, corporate sponsored research, and non-profit support was higher in total dollars than the average of all U.S. top quartile institutions and the average of all universities with medical schools. 

Purdue University

Likewise, Purdue out-performed the average of all top quartile institutions and the average of all land grant institutions on all sources of funding, both in total and by source—federal, business, state/local, nonprofit and institutions—and nearly beat the performance for “Other External” funding. 

University of Notre Dame

Meanwhile, the University of Notre Dame has traditionally been a teaching-focused institution, but over the past 15 years, has undertaken a deliberate strategy to become a top-tier research institution. Today, Notre Dame outperforms the average of all private research universities for nearly every funding source and, for 2016, gained twice the amount of R&D funding than the average private university.

And perhaps, most significantly, the growth in funding achieved by the three research universities in Indiana over the past decade is equivalent to adding more than three additional research universities of average size into Indiana.

Indiana’s research universities have been the birthplace of fluoride toothpaste, echocardiography, biofuels, neoprene and so much more, and their legacies continue with life-saving and life-changing research happening at these institutions every day. 

The reports are available at, BioCrossroads’ website for reports and educational information.

Nora Doherty is interim president and chief executive officer, and senior vice president of BioCrossroads, and managing director of the Indiana Seed Funds. 

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