NDSU continues to set records for annual research expenditures

For the fourth year in a row, North Dakota State University has reached a new all-time high in research expenditures and leads all North Dakota higher education institutions in terms of overall research expenditures (the dollar value of the funds spent by an institution on research).

In the most recently reported fiscal year (FY22), NDSU reached a milestone with $174.9 million in research expenditures, surpassing totals of $164 million in FY21 and $155.6 million in FY20.

The FY22 amount places NDSU among the top 100 public research universities according to the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey (HERD). The HERD survey rankings were recently released and are based upon research and development expenditure data submitted annually to the NSF. For FY22, NDSU ranks 99 out of 410 public institutions. NDSU leads all North Dakota higher education institutions in research expenditures for USDA, USDOT, NSF, and DOD.

Colleen Fitzgerald, NDSU vice president for research and creative activity, noted that this year's HERD survey shows the momentum of NDSU’s research initiatives and that the institution's researchers are tackling issues important to the region and the country.

"NDSU has a proven recipe for success: serve North Dakotans through the research we conduct, because the kinds of challenges that face North Dakotans represent larger global challenges. NDSU faculty develop solutions for those challenges, which leads to national recognition and additional funding,” she said. “The value proposition of NDSU research for the state is evident in these rankings. It reaffirms the priority that North Dakota legislators put on diversification of the state’s economy through research in this year’s legislative session. NDSU has consistently delivered on this priority for the state.”

NDSU's research success is also reflected in its Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education R1 ranking, which denotes a doctoral university with very high research activity. NDSU is one of only 146 institutions in the country with the prestigious R1 designation and maintaining that ranking is one of five key priorities NDSU President David Cook has laid out for the institution.

“The increase in our expenditures amount year over year shows demonstrated growth in NDSU’s research operations," added Fitzgerald. "It’s critically important to accelerate this even further given federal funding initiatives. Our researchers have been especially strategic in the awards they pursue and win, leveraging opportunities of national importance where NDSU is already strong and uniquely positioned, such as our priority areas of food, water and energy security; cybersecurity, life sciences, and entrepreneurship."

“Our size, coupled with the premiere R1 research status, means incoming students will very early on have opportunities to work with talented faculty on their research projects,” said NDSU President David Cook. “The success of NDSU researchers feeds directly into increased student and faculty recruitment, which will in turn further add to our research capability.

Investing in NDSU faculty and their research has been a key priority of Fitzgerald for the Office of Research and Creative Activity (RCA). To support NDSU researchers, Fitzgerald has restructured RCA to dedicate teams and support infrastructure to faculty and research development, strategic research initiatives, and innovation and economic development.

"We're starting to see the returns on these investments," she noted. "An important leading indicator of the research strengths of an institution is the amount of funds awarded. While we are only halfway through the current fiscal year, our new awards total is nearly the same for the entire previous year."

A direct result of the vibrancy of research activity at NDSU was the $2.5 million in Economic Diversification Research Funds that were provided by the North Dakota Legislature in HB1003 and signed into law by Governor Burgum this year.

"Through those funds, NDSU is focusing on use-inspired research and development of the infrastructure needed to enhance the capacity to take research into practice through translational support for innovations," said Fitzgerald. "The programs that NDSU will fund through the 2024-2025 biennium Economic Diversification Research Funds (EDRF) will include the establishment and development of an NDSU Innovations to Practice Program." NDSU’s funding from the first year of the EDRF funding was received from the Bank of North Dakota in mid-December, and funding opportunities will go out to campus in early 2024.

Some significant awards to NDSU in the last year include:

  • A grant of $14 million over five years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) established the Great Plains Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub to provide immersive, entrepreneurial training for researchers to facilitate commercialization.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded $3 million to the NDSU Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute for the Region 8 University Transportation Center (UTC). The UTC focuses on maintaining the extensive public infrastructure system of Region 8, which encompasses 410,387 miles of public road and 30,318 highway bridges.
  • Funding from the National Institutes of Health of almost $10 million over the next five years to support Phase 2 funding for the NDSU Center for Diagnostic and Therapeutic Strategies in Pancreatic Cancer.
  • Biological Sciences professors Kendra Greenlee and Julia Bowsher were awarded nearly $4 million from the U.S Army to study the effects of pollinator plantings.
  • A NIH R01 grant of $3.2 million was to investigate a potential therapeutic for Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Biological Sciences professor Jenni Momsen, Psychology assistant professor Katie Wissman, and colleagues received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation for their nationally-recognized STEM training program for postdoctoral fellows.
  • Two US Department of Agriculture (USDA) awards from the Agricultural Research Service will advance cutting edge research in key areas of digital agriculture, one pertaining to plant breeding, led by Plant Sciences professor Phillip McClean, and the other on the fusion of multi-spectrum sensing for food production, led by Electrical and Computer Engineering professor and chair Benjamin Braaten.
  • A $1 million award from the USDA Office of Tribal Relations supporting Indigenous food sovereignty and public health, led by American Indian Public Health Resource Center program leader Vanessa Tibbitts.
  • $1 million from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering professor Ying Huang for cleaning and integrity assessment for hazardous liquid pipelines.
  • NDSU faculty also secured three NSF CAREER awards in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Additional details about NDSU's latest NSF HERD Survey results are available on the NDSU HERD interactive PowerBi report 


The NSF HERD survey is the primary source of information on research and development expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. The survey collects R&D expenditure information by field of research and source of funds along with information about the types of research, expenses, and headcounts of R&D personnel information from each institution.

The NSF HERD survey is developed and conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). NCES is a principal statistical agency located within the National Science Foundation and its mandate is the collection, interpretation, analysis, and dissemination of objective data on the science and engineering enterprise.

Additional details about the NSF HERD survey.

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