When choosing a school, researchers typically look for institutions that invest in research and development (R&D) and receive funding from various sources, including the federal government. The more research funding a school receives, the more likely it is that researchers can get the financial support needed to run their projects.
To help aspiring researchers find the most promising research schools in their area, the following page highlights the top research universities by state according to R&D funding.
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To identify the top research universities by state, the following list relies on information provided by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) 2017 ranking list. Data about federal R&D investments comes from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.
Top Research Universities By State
State-by-State Top Research Universities
A top research university, the University of Alabama at Birmingham spends over $558 million annually on related expenditures. To ensure students, faculty, and affiliates adhere to standards of scientific integrity, the university provides training and additional resources covering how to conduct responsible research. Community members stay updated on the school's innovations through a weekly newsletter called Research Matters.
Undergraduates can participate in service-learning projects and pursue their own projects, presenting their work at an annual expo. UAB also provides opportunities through pilot programs, such as the Center for AIDS Research and the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care.
University of Alaska - Fairbanks
Opening in 1922, the University of Alaska Fairbanks leads the state in research contributions. According to the NSF, the school committed approximately $153 million to R&D in 2017.
One of the few schools with land, sea, and space grants, UAF features prominent research facilities, including the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, the International Arctic Research Center, and the Institute of Marine Science. The school has made contributions to climate change, high-latitude biological systems, and volcanological research.
The University of Arizona
Founded in 1885, the University of Arizona runs one of the state's leading research programs, with R&D expenditures over $622 million in 2017.
UArizona has established more than 100 research centers and institutes throughout the state, including centers for brain research, insect science, and sustainable technology. The institution also receives some of the highest NASA funding, ranking in the top five among the country's research schools.
University of Arkansas
The flagship institute of the University of Arkansas System, the University of Arkansas was founded in Fayetteville in 1871. According to the NSF, the school's R&D expenditures surpassed $157 million in 2017.
UA's research covers data science, human health, and sustainability. Some of the school's other signature research areas include food systems, materials science, metabolic diseases, and neuroscience.
University of California - San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
Founded in 1864 as a private medical school, the University of California, San Francisco is one of 10 campuses in the University of California System and the only campus dedicated entirely to graduate and professional education. In 2017, UCSF spent approximately $1.41 billion on R&D.
Recognized as one of the leading research institutions in the health sciences, UCSF received the most federal funding for biomedical research among all public schools. The institution's research has led to numerous medical breakthroughs, five Nobel Prize winners, more than 1,800 active inventions, and nearly 200 entrepreneurial startups.
Founded in 1876, the University of Colorado Boulder has become the state leader in research and innovation. In 2017, the university invested over $499 million in R&D.
CU Boulder hosts more than 900 researchers conducting studies through 12 research institutes. Some of the school's research specialities include aerospace, energy, biosciences, fundamental sciences, and environmental sciences. Of all public research institutions, CU Boulder performs the most NASA research.
Founded in 1701, Yale University continues to drive innovation through research. According to NSF data, the school dedicated over $951 million to R&D in 2017. The university's many research projects and centers explore the humanities, sciences, arts, engineering, medicine, and social sciences.
Yale researchers enjoy access to museums, galleries, and a leading research library system. The university hosts more than 850 faculty members involved in research and has made groundbreaking medical discoveries. Yale's research has made important contributions to robotic fabrics, quantum computing, and pharmaceuticals.
Since it was founded as a private academy in 1743, the University of Delaware has grown into the state leader for research and development. According to NSF data, R&D expenditures at UD reached more than $183 million in 2017.
UD features more than 75 research facilities, including a solar energy research institute, the oldest of its kind in the world. Research projects at UD examine diverse topics, including clean fuel and energy, mobility, and historical artifact conservation. Engineering makes up the majority of UD's research.
The George Washington University
Washington, D.C., DC
Founded in 1821, the George Washington University has become a leader in Washington, D.C., for its research and innovation, as well as its flexible graduate programs. According to NSF data, the school featured approximately $246 million in R&D expenditures in 2017, the most out of any university in the District of Columbia.
Research at GW touches on many disciplines, but some of the most innovative work involves technology, global security, and health. The university offers researchers access to more than 70 research centers and institutes, including the Science and Engineering Hall and the Global Women's Institute.
Florida's flagship school, the University of Florida, dates back to 1853 and is one of most research-driven institutions in the country. According to the NSF, UF invested more than $801 million in R&D in 2017.
One of the few schools with land, sea, and space grants, UF is a leader in biotechnology and health-related research. The university produces significant research through more than 40 institutes, including the Institute on Aging, the UF Genetics Institute, and the UF Shands Cancer Center.
Since opening in 1836, Emory University has become a national leader in research. According to the NSF, the university committed approximately $665 million to R&D in 2017, the highest amount among universities in Georgia.
Emory offers 40 research specialties to doctoral students, including medicine, public health, and nursing. The university also features eight core and six multidisciplinary schools, along with more than 45 research centers and institutes.
University of Hawaii at Manoa
The largest and oldest of the University of Hawai'i schools, the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa was founded in 1907 and leads the state in research and development. According to the NSF, the university dedicated approximately $292 million to R&D in 2017.
Primary research at UH Mānoa covers astronomy, oceanography, tropical agriculture, genetics, and cancer. The school also features some of the most unique research institutes anywhere in the world, such as facilities for marine biology, astronomy, and geophysics and planetology.
Since opening in 1889, the University of Idaho has grown into the state leader for research and academics. U of I boasts the largest R&D contribution in Idaho, spending approximately $110 million in 2017.
U of I houses nine major research centers, including facilities for geological surveying, advanced energy studies, and aquaculture research. Featured research projects include work in land management, online physical therapy training, and undiscovered moons.
Founded in 1851, Northwestern University committed approximately $752 million toward R&D in 2017. Based in Evanston, Illinois, the university maintains a long tradition of academic and research excellence.
Although the school's primary focuses include medical and biological sciences, Northwestern houses over 100 research institutes and centers, 55 core facilities, and over 1,500 laboratories. Research projects examine astrophysics, nanotechnology, and surface science.
West Lafayette, IN
Since opening in 1869, Purdue University has developed one of the strongest research programs in the country, spending approximately $623 million on R&D in 2017. Although the university is best known for its engineering school, Purdue also features strong research-based programs in fields like pharmaceuticals, business, and education.
Purdue students and faculty conduct research through more than 130 centers and institutes in fields like engineering, pharmaceutical processing, agriculture technology, and robotics. Some major projects focus on water, packaging, and the machinery industry.
Integrative learning lies at the core of academic and professional development at the University of Iowa. The university spends nearly $589 million in external project funding each year. Through UI Ventures, affiliated entrepreneurs may access financial support and consulting services for startups driven by research conducted at the university.
Approximately one-third of undergraduate students at UI participate in some form of research. Through the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates, learners can find mentors, search for field experiences and internships, and apply for awards. The center also maintains an online library filled with training videos and lecture series.
Founded in 1866, the University of Kansas leads the state in research endeavors. According to the NSF, R&D expenditures at the state's flagship university surpassed $300 million in 2017.
In addition to a medical research center, KU houses 12 major research institutes, including facilities for telecommunication technology, remote sensing of ice sheets, and environmentally beneficial catalysis. The university has also established more than 30 research labs and seven libraries.
The University of Kentucky was founded in 1865 and now leads the state in research initiatives. According to the NSF, the state's R&D expenditures topped $378 million in 2017.
UK conducts research in applied energy, computational science, geology, and water resources. The school houses more than 70 centers and institutes and six core facilities, including labs focusing on animal resources, flow cytometry, light microscopy, magnetic resonance imaging, proteomics, and rodent behavior.
Louisiana State University
The flagship university and research leader in the Bayou State, Louisiana State University opened in 1860. In 2017, the school's R&D expenditures reached $266 million.
LSU features 14 research centers and institutes, including facilities for coastal resiliency, advanced materials, and collaborative knowledge. Housing more than 1,000 active research projects, LSU emphasizes core computing, individual behavior, communication, materials science, renewable energy, coastal sustainability, and biomedical research.
A sea-, land-, and space-grant institution, the University of Maine opened in 1865 and houses the strongest research program in the state. The university committed just under $100 million to R&D in 2017.
Major research disciplines at UMaine include neuroscience, aquaculture, climate change, and precision manufacturing. The school also houses 15 research institutes and centers, including facilities for research in genetics in the environment and sensor technologies.
Founded in 1876 as America's first research university, Johns Hopkins University spends more money on R&D than any other school in the country. According to the NSF, Johns Hopkins topped $2.5 billion in R&D expenditures in 2017.
The school splits funding among nine academic divisions and a laboratory of applied physics. Over the years, research at Johns Hopkins has led to discoveries in genetic engineering, water purification, ancient text authentication, surgical procedures, medical equipment, and safety devices.
The oldest university in the country, Harvard University opened in 1636 and has earned a place among the leading research institutions in the world. The university's R&D expenditures surpassed $1.12 billion in 2017.
Boasting the largest academic library in the world and research centers situated across the country and internationally, Harvard researchers have made a global impression. In addition to producing 49 Nobel Laureates and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners, the school has contributed to research in stem cell science, cancer treatments, genetics, and brain development.
Founded in 1817 among the first wave of public universities in the country, the University of Michigan spent approximately $1.53 billion on R&D in 2017, the second-highest amount in the nation only behind Johns Hopkins University.
The last 200 years of research have led to major milestones for the university, including groundbreaking work in laser holograms and polio vaccines. In 2019 alone, U-M created more than 500 new inventions. In addition to 19 schools and colleges, the university houses various research centers and more than 2.8 million square feet of research space.
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities drives innovation through cutting-edge research. Ranking ninth among all public research universities, UMN spent about $922 million on R&D in 2017.
Through steady investment, UMN has developed 2.1 million square feet of research space, established 300 research centers and institutions, and connected with 29 Nobel Prize-winning faculty members. The school's achievements include creating the black box flight recorder and staging the first open heart surgery.
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University is recognized by both the Carnegie Foundation and the National Science Foundation as one of the top research universities in the country. The university spends about $241 million in related expenditures annually, which amounts to more than half of the research and development funding of all other higher education institutions in the state.
Budding researchers benefit from a comprehensive suite of resources, including faculty mentorship opportunities and guides on how to avoid research misconduct. Students can access funding for self-motivated scholarly and scientific activities through their respective colleges. They may also collaborate on existing projects conducted by the Forest and Wildlife Research Center and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis was founded in 1853 and helped create a model for medical research across the country. The school's R&D expenditures surpassed $754 million in 2017.
Every year, the school supports more than 3,000 active research projects. WUSTL employs 55 faculty members from the National Academy of Sciences. The university has established more than 30 international research partnerships and 20 research institutes focused on fields such as translational sciences, community engagement, and school partnership.
Established in 1893, Montana State University spent just under $130 million on R&D in 2017, the most of any school in Big Sky Country.
At MSU, researchers enjoy access to more than 40 research institutes and centers, including facilities for zero emissions research, optical technology, and health education. The university specializes in Yellowstone ecosystem research, receiving five times more funding than any other institution in the field.
Since opening in 1869, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has developed into the state leader of research, committing approximately $302 million to R&D in 2017.
Nebraska features research facilities that study nanomaterials, water sciences, and cell development. In addition to more than 35 core research facilities, Nebraska also houses an organization for commercializing research technologies and a 249-acre research and technology center.
The first university in the Silver State, the University of Nevada, Reno is also the state's leader of research. According to the NSF, the university's approximately $106 million in R&D expenditures made it the leader in Nevada in 2017.
Prominent research activities at UNR delve into robotics, wildland fire risks, and heart disease. The university also features more than 60 research centers that explore fields such as earthquake engineering, neuroscience, and mines and geology.
Dartmouth College — in Hanover, New Hampshire — houses over 50 institutes, laboratories, and centers dedicated to scientific and academic innovation. These groups include the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, the Cook Engineering Design Center, and Optics in Medicine at Dartmouth. Many projects are interdisciplinary, requiring the collaboration of students and faculty throughout campus.
Dartmouth also facilitates research through five schools. For example, the Tuck School of Business provides opportunities for MBA candidates across five research centers, including the Center for Digital Strategies, which focuses on creating business advantages using online tools.
Founded in 1766, Rutgers is the largest and oldest school in the New Jersey and New York metropolitan area. According to the NSF, the school's R&D expenditures surpassed $681 million in 2017.
Known for its research in healthcare, technology, and the humanities, Rutgers maintains over 1,300 active patents in various fields. The university also houses the largest research network in the region, with more than 300 research centers and institutions, along with core facilities for food innovation and digital imaging.
The University of New Mexico
Founded in 1889 as the state's flagship institution, the University of New Mexico led the state in research contributions in 2017. According to the NSF, UNM spent $247 million on R&D that year.
UNM features eight research centers and one institute, including facilities for high technology materials, advanced research computing, and microengineered materials. The university has also established seven research organizations, including the Earth Data Analysis Center, the Museum of Southwestern Biology, and the Long Term Ecological Research Network.
A private research institution, Cornell University was founded in 1865. According to the NSF, the university spent approximately $984 million on R&D in 2017.
That investment has helped fund research at Cornell's over 100 interdisciplinary research centers and organizations. Some of the university's research projects examine life sciences and the effects of disease on the human body, medicine and Coronavirus response, and space sciences and the space between galaxies.
With roots that date back to 1838, Duke University was officially established in 1924. Duke is based in Durham, one point in North Carolina's "Research Triangle" alongside UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State in Raleigh. According to the NSF, the university spent nearly $1.13 billion on R&D in 2017.
The university supports ongoing research projects in at least 11 academic divisions. The school hosts the largest academic clinical research organization in the world, the Duke Clinical Research Institute, and 10 Nobel Laureates work at the school.
North Dakota State University
Founded as an agricultural college in 1890, North Dakota State University now leads the Peace Garden State in research. According to the NSF, the university spent more than $153 million on R&D in 2017.
Recognized for research in aerospace, environmental sciences, energy, and nutrition, NDSU focuses on environmental protection above all. The university also houses more than 40 research centers and institutes, including facilities for enterprise business analytics, bioplastics, and cognitive neuroscience.
The Ohio State University
Founded in 1870, the Ohio State University has earned a place among the leading research institutions in the country. Over the years, Ohio State has received land, sea, and space grants. According to the NSF, the university spent more than $864 million on R&D in 2017.
Ohio State houses more than 200 research centers and institutes and conducts research through at least 14 schools and colleges. The university's researchers have made enormous advances in many fields, including sustainability, food and agriculture, medical technology, and health and wellness.
The University of Oklahoma
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma features the most research activity of any school in the state. According to the NSF, OU's approximately $272 million in research expenditures led all schools in the Sooner State in 2017.
OU has established three campuses dedicated to research and 10 major research centers, including facilities for culinary medicine, integrative immunology, and telecommunications engineering. The university offers many research specializations, including radar innovations, vaccinations, and biochemistry, along with meteorological studies at the National Weather Center.
Oregon Health & Science University
Oregon Health & Science University is Oregon's only academic health center and one of the top research universities in the region. The university supports multidisciplinary research across five schools and colleges, as well as 35 centers and institutes. These include the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, the Center for Global Child Health Research, and the Methamphetamine Abuse Research Center.
OSHU provides a variety of resources for researchers, including laboratory volunteer opportunities and the tools required to set up a clinical trial. Each week, the university's research office publishes a list of funding opportunities from internal sources, philanthropic organizations, and government agencies.
University of Pennsylvania
Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania has long focused on innovation as a guiding mission. According to the NSF, the university's R&D expenditures totaled more than $1.37 billion in 2017.
Penn maintains a lengthy history of contributing to advancements in medicine, science, and technology, including creating the first all-electronic computer in the world. In addition to providing resources and support services to researchers across the world, the university houses nearly 200 research centers and institutes.
Founded in 1764 among the first universities in the country, Brown University is also the leading research institution in Rhode Island. According to NSF data, the school committed more than $212 million to R&D in 2017.
Brown features nine research institutes and five major initiatives which focus on the arts, global health, data science, indigenous studies, and spatial structures in the social sciences. The university also hosts 30 research centers, three libraries, and three museums and galleries.
Medical University of South Carolina
The oldest medical school in the South, the Medical University of South Carolina was founded in 1824 and leads the state in research contributions. According to the NSF, the university's research expenditures surpassed $262 million in 2017.
At MUSC, researchers enjoy access to six institutes in neuroscience, psychiatry, cardiology, children's health, ophthalmology, and clinical and translational research. The university also houses 29 research centers and focus areas in various disciplines, including addiction services, digestive diseases, and health disparities.
South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the largest university and the research leader in the state. According to the NSF, SDSU committed more than $63 million to R&D in 2017
While the university features many research capabilities, SDSU specializes in agriculture, life sciences, and remote sensing. SDSU has established five research institutes, three service laboratories, and two core facilities. The university also developed the first research center for ethanol fuel and invented the internal combustion engine.
Founded in 1873, Vanderbilt University specializes in cross-disciplinary research and is one of the leaders in growing research funding. According to the NSF, the university and medical center spent approximately $712 million on R&D in 2017.
Vanderbilt houses more than 85 institutes and centers dedicated to research, including institutes focusing on intelligent mechatronics, stem cell biology, and cognitive medicine. The university also maintains special research interests in areas like public policy, biomedicine, and horticulture.
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University now leads the Lone Star State in research initiatives. According to the NSF, the university invested approximately $905 million in R&D in 2017.
Texas A&M houses 16 schools and colleges and nearly 150 research centers and institutions. One of only 17 universities nationwide to be recognized as a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution, TAMU has contributed to breakthrough research in diabetes, infections, wave energy, and stretchable electronics.
The University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT
Founded in 1850, the University of Utah is the Beehive State's flagship research institution. According to the NSF, the university invested $249 million in R&D in 2017
The U features extensive resources for students and researchers, including close to one million square feet of research space and 120 research centers and bureaus. The university specializes in various fields, including cancer research, environmental studies, and military health. The U also provides some of the best technology commercialization opportunities in the country.
The University of Vermont was founded in 1791 amid the first wave of universities in New England. According to the NSF, the university now leads the Green Mountain State in research contributions, committing more than $118 million to R&D in 2017.
Through eight colleges, UVM features a variety of research disciplines to choose from, including agriculture and life sciences, engineering, and medical studies. The university has also established more than 40 research centers, including facilities for infectious diseases, holocaust studies, and sustainable agriculture.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
One of the top research universities in the country, Virginia Tech spends over $531 million on related projects and partnerships. The university operates six research centers dedicated to addressing large-scale, multidisciplinary discoveries. These centers include the Fralin Life Sciences Institute; the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology; and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Through the Office of Undergraduate Research, students can jumpstart their own project or join an existing study. The office also offers online training videos, in-person workshops, and a mentorship program that connects student researchers with faculty. Learners can also find support through the student-run Academic Undergraduate Research Association, which fosters peer-to-peer learning and collaboration.
Founded in 1861, the University of Washington has since become the Evergreen State's flagship school. According to the NSF, UW spent approximately $1.35 billion on R&D in 2017.
The university's investment and dedication to research make UW one of the world leaders in the field, earning nearly 5,000 awards, including seven Nobel Prizes. Researchers at UW join a supportive and collaborative network with access to more than 280 research centers.
Since opening in 1867, West Virginia University has grown into a state leader in research. According to the NSF, WVU invested approximately $186 million in R&D in 2017.
At WVU, researchers enjoy access to more than 40 research centers and institutes, including major facilities for energy, neuroscience, health sciences, and clinical and translational sciences. The university also features centers focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship, applied innovation, media innovation, and technology transfer.
Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin-Madison invested more than $1.19 billion in R&D in 2017, according to the NSF.
The university has invested in 17 research centers and an extensive support system. As a result, UW produces the eighth-largest research volume in the nation. UW has changed the country's health and vitamin intake methods, made significant medical advances, and produced 41 Pulitzer Prize winners over the years.
Founded in 1886, the University of Wyoming has grown into a state leader in research. According to the NSF, UW invested more than $125 million in R&D in 2017, which led the Cowboy State.
At UW, researchers gain access to two core research institutes, facilities for microscopy and stable isotopes, and 15 research centers and establishments. The university's top research specializations include agriculture, animal husbandry, water research, and new crops.
Which State Has the Most Top Research Universities?
California houses the most top research universities out of all 50 states. According to the NSF, the state boasts three schools that placed in the top 10 R&D expenditures in 2017: the University of California, San Francisco; the University of California, San Diego; and Stanford University.
What Are Some Examples of Research Expenditures at Universities?
Research expenditures can cover costs related to the researchers, research facilities, and projects. For example, schools can invest the money into a new research library, which includes securing the necessary technology and titles. They can also use research funds to build a laboratory or research institute and purchase all of the necessary equipment and supplies.
R&D expenditures also cover employee and researcher salaries, benefits, and grants. To maintain funding year over year, schools need to produce results, which requires talented researchers, promising ideas, and quality resources. R&D expenditures help attract and keep the best people while also providing them with the financial support they need.
Why Is Research Important at a University?
High-quality research creates an ideal environment for universities. Schools that support prominent research projects attract better students, researchers, and faculty. Extensive research results in more research and internship opportunities for students, collaborative environments for faculty, and partnerships and notoriety for the school.
Research funding often goes into creating new facilities, which institutions reuse and repurpose long after the initial project finishes. Funding also leads to innovation, jobs, and publications, which can lead to more R&D funding in return.
How Does Research and Development Funding Benefit Students?
For students, choosing a school with significant R&D funding can lead to a better education. Funding helps universities provide their learners with modern facilities. Additionally, great research often trickles down into the programs, leading to new information, courses, and majors.
R&D funding also means a lot of activity and opportunity for degree-seekers. Students can often find employment and internships within research projects. For graduate students, research experience can improve their chances at admission, along with their chances to receive funding.
What Are Some Degrees that Benefit from Research and Development Expenditure?
Most programs and degrees can benefit from R&D expenditures by using such funding to secure experienced faculty, classroom space, and equipment. The programs that require the most funding are those that need significant scientific and/or technological resources and/or facilities. Technology-related degree programs, for example, need investment in necessary equipment, such as computers and laboratory supplies.
Medical degrees also feature substantial R&D expenditures, as many schools require clinical simulation centers and laboratories for medical research. In some cases, medical schools can double as actual treatment centers, so facilities must meet current healthcare quality standards.
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