The federal government serves as one of the largest funders of research and development at American academic institutions, contributing more than $28.4 billion to 1,316 academic institutions for science and engineering activities annually. Rather than providing an exhaustive list of all academic research and development activities taking place in every state, the list below highlights one institution from each to demonstrate the vast amount of R&D being done by massive public institutions and small private schools alike. All told, some 37 public and 14 private universities and colleges made the list. After reviewing these schools, keep reading to learn more about the various federal agencies and departments that provide funding each year.

What Are The Top Research Universities?

School Location Description Toggle

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Birmingham, AL

In the 2013 fiscal year, UAB received $290 million in funding from the federal obligations, ranking it 22nd nationally and 10th amongst public university federal funding. The state as a whole receives $2.4 billion in R&D funding each year, giving UAB a 10.7% portion. The school was also the first university to be ranked as a Research University I campus by the Carnegie Foundation. Several areas of research are highly ranked nationally:

  • Dentistry is 1st in the nation
  • Public health ranked 9th
  • Medicine ranked 26th
  • Nursing ranked 31st

Recent innovations include advancements in the areas of biomedicine, oncology and bio-safety.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fairbanks, AK

UAF received $118 million in total research funding during the 2014 fiscal year, with more than $650 million received since 2010. Students are drawn to the wide spectrum of interests represented through seven major research units. These include:

  • The Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station
  • The Geophysical Institute
  • The International Arctic Research Center
  • The Arctic Region Supercomputing Center
  • The Institute of Arctic Biology
  • The Institute of Marine Science
  • The Institute of Northern Engineering

Some of the areas the school is working to innovate include climate change, volcanological research and high-latitude biological systems. Research initiatives unique to Alaska include work studying reindeer, the health of native Alaskans and arctic biology.

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

As of 2012, federal agencies contributedover $212 million annually to the ongoing research efforts at UA. Arizona received $2.37 billion in 2013, giving the school an 11.2% slice of all funding for the year. The Office for Research and Discovery oversees more than 100 research centers and institutes spread across the state, including:

  • The Center for Insect Science
  • The Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Center
  • Institute for LGBT Studies
  • Institute of the Environment and the Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center

The school is also ranked first in observational, theoretical and space astronomy programs, which helps explain why NASA awards Arizona more research grants for space travel than any other school; NASA missions to Mars are powered, in part, by equipment from the U of A.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Little Rock, AR

UAMS received $89.2 million in federal funding from 11 different agencies in 2011, representing more than half of the state’s overall federal R&D funding obligations. UAMS is ranked in the top 20% of all federal research funding. There are a variety of centers and institutes focused on some of the following areas:

  • Researching Optometry
  • Myeloma
  • Psychiatric care
  • Aging
  • Spinal Issues
  • Cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Children’s nutrition
  • Addiction

Clinical researchers at the school performed the first outpatient bone marrow transplant in America and the first gene therapy for multiple myeloma.

University of California - San Francisco

San Francisco, CA

UCSF is consistently ranked among the top ten federally funded academic research institutions in the nation, with laboratories and institutes owned by the school receiving $433.4 million each fiscal year. Given the size of the state and number of institutions, even this significant amount only accounts for 2.67% of California’s overall federal R&D funding. The School of Medicine is consistently ranked in the top ten for research and receives the second largest amount of funding from the National Institutes of Health. Other notable research areas include:

  • Nursing (Ranked 1st nationally in NIH funds)
  • Pharmacy (Ranked 1st nationally in NIH funds)
  • Dentistry (Ranked 1st nationally in NIH funds)
  • Radiology

Areas of innovation include developing techniques of recombinant DNA, prenatal tests for sickle cell anemia, synthesizing human growth hormones and contributing to the creation of the hepatitis B vaccine.

University of Colorado - Denver

Denver, CO

The University of Colorado receives $330.3 million per fiscal year from a variety of federal agencies, accounting for 10% of the state’s federal R&D budget. As the largest research institution in the state, the school received a Carnegie Classification of RU/VH, meaning it has very high research activity. UCD uses its Anschutz Medical Campus for health sciences research, including areas of molecular toxicology and pharmaceutical sciences. Research is divided into four areas:

  • Animal Research
  • Human Subject research
  • Laboratory Research
  • Undergraduate Research

Highlights of Denver's recent research initiatives include work on skin diseases and the general health of lab mice, concussions and end-of-life care.

Yale University

New Haven, CT

In the 2013 fiscal year, federal R&D obligations to Yale University were $412.47 million dollars, with the largest amount coming from the HHS. In the same year, Connecticut received a federal R&D budget of $2.517 billion, giving the school 16.3% of the total amount. The school runs the gamut of research areas, with world-class institutes, centers and laboratories on the cutting edge of nearly every discipline. Researchers work in:

  • The Arts and Social Sciences
  • Medicine and Health Sciences
  • Pure sciences, engineering and more

Yale's total research expenditures for the 2014 fiscal year amounted to $548.4 million. Of the over 850 faculty members dedicated to research, 625 work in Yale Medicine and 172 work in Yale's Arts & Sciences school.

University of Delaware

Newark, DE

As one of the top 100 institutions for federal R&D obligations, the University of Delaware received $69.54 million in the 2013 fiscal year. These funds are used in a variety of different research initiatives, ranging from genotyping and histotechnology to computational biology and gene editing. The Carnegie Classification gave the school a ranking of very high research activity.

Other highlights include the school's engineering research, which accounts for over 40% of all research expenditures, and the school’s solar energy research institute, the oldest in the world.

George Washington University

Washington, DC

Operating as the largest research institution within Washington D.C., private or otherwise, GWU had a federal R&D budget of $120,857,000 for the 2013 fiscal year. The Carnegie Classification system ranked the school as having very high research activity, with research centers in:

  • Biostatistics
  • Neuroscience
  • Public policy
  • Crash analytics
  • Genomics
  • Otolaryngology microsurgery
  • Economic policy

Areas with the largest research funding include engineering, applied science, medicine, health sciences, public health, engineering, and the arts and sciences. The school's recent opening of a brand new Science and Engineering Hall, equipped with a rooftop greenhouse, perfectly captures GWU's commitment to the forefront of research-driven academics.

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL

Florida received $2.28 billion in federal R&D funding for the 2013 fiscal year and the University of Florida received $296.2 million of these funds, or 12.9%. The school is a leader, both on the state and national level, in biotechnology and health-related research. Other significant areas receiving funding include:

  • The Institute on Aging
  • The McKnight Brain Institute
  • The UF Genetics Institute
  • The UF Shands Cancer Center
  • The Emerging Pathogens Institute

Some of the most recognizable inventions and innovations coming out of UF include Gatorade, Trusopt (a treatment for glaucoma) and the Sentricon Termite Elimination System.

Georgia Tech University

Atlanta, GA

Based in Atlanta, GIT is recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as having a very high level of research activity. In the 2013 fiscal year, the school received federal R&D funding in the amount of $522.1 million, or 46% of the entire state’s federal obligations. Activities in this arena are vast and far reaching, with major areas of research including:

  • Bioengineering and Bioscience
  • Data Engineering and Science
  • Electronics and Nanotechnology
  • Energy and Sustainability
  • Manufacturing, Trade and Logistics
  • National Security
  • Public Service and Policy
  • Robotics

The school is especially focused on supporting startup ventures, with both VentureLab and the Advanced Technology Development Center on hand to support initiatives. Georgia Tech has partnerships with renowned universities and private businesses, including Emory University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Panama, the NIH and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Honolulu, HI

As of 2013, federal R&D funds exceeded $225.4 million dollars, or nearly 56% of the state’s entire federal obligation. The school also received significant research funds, both from extramural grants and contracts, allowing it to massively expand initiatives to understand the physical landscape, people and heritage of Hawaii. UHM is recognized for pioneering research in:

  • Astronomy
  • Cancer
  • Education
  • Genetics
  • Linguistics
  • Oceanography
  • Asian area studies
  • Tropical agriculture

Three of the school’s leading researchers in geophysics and planetology are currently preparing for a mission to the moon in 2020.

University of Idaho

Moscow, ID

Located in Moscow, ID, the University of Idaho is an internationally recognized public research institution, with federal R&D funds totaling nearly $54 million for the 2013 fiscal year. Idaho received $380.8 million in federally funded R&D investments, giving UI 14% of overall obligations. Prominent areas of research include:

  • Landscape Transition and Urbanization
  • Energy Production and Use
  • Emerging Diseases and Parasites
  • Stem Education
  • Human Communities

Among other notable innovations, the school has the distinction of cloning the first equine animal, a mule, in partnership with Utah State University.

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Although Illinois is home to a number of exceptional research institutions, NU at Evanston received $396.1 million in R&D funding by federal agencies, or 17% of the statewide R&D budget provided by the government. This private institution currently funds more than 1,500 laboratories, with the majority of focus being placed on medical and biological science innovations. Other areas of research include:

  • Materials
  • Astrophysics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Catalysis
  • Surface Science
  • Sustainability
  • Policy
  • Comparative studies

A leading researcher at the school is credited with creating pregabalin, a synthesized organic molecule that ultimately became Lyrica.

Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN

Although Purdue University at Calumet is a small university comprised of fewer than 10,000 students, the research activities at the school are impressive. During the 2013 fiscal year, federal R&D funds totaled $4.3 million, or less than 1% of the state’s total budget of $692.6 million. PU’s research centers and institutions are recognized as world class, with specific focus on:

  • Water
  • Energy
  • Visualization
  • Simulation
  • Packaging
  • Machinery Industry
  • Commercialization

Recent research breakthroughs in engineering, one of Purdue's most prominent areas, include work on beams for bridges in Indiana, improved concrete (also for bridges) and development of better steamrollers and road paint trucks.

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

The University of Iowa ranks 47th in total R&D expenditures out of 643 institutions, with total federal funding equaling $255.3 million for the 2013 fiscal year. The amount constitutes nearly 46% percent of the statewide federal R&D obligations of $560.47 million for the same time period. Specific areas of research include:

  • Agricultural Medicine
  • Occupational Health
  • Hydraulics
  • Environmental Science
  • Housing and Land Use
  • Vehicle Safety and Transportation

The institution prides itself on incorporating undergraduates in research initiatives, with 1,280 seniors from the class of 2014 participating in research projects outside normal coursework.

University of Kansas

Lawrence, KS

This public research institutions ranks in the top 12% of all American institutions, landing 74th out of 643. In the 2013 fiscal year, the school received federal R&D funds in excess of $174 million. These funds are used for work conducted in areas like biodiversity and policy research.

One of the most unique avenues of research is conducted at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, which is actively working to understand how changes in the sea level affects the mass balance of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.

University of Kentucky

Lexington, KY

Out of the $306.85 million received in federal R&D funds by Kentucky, 49% were allocated to the University of Kentucky. The 2013 fiscal year saw the school receiving $150.7 million from a variety of governmental departments and agencies. The school instigated a rigorous plan to become a top 20 research institution by 2020; it currently sits in the 28th slot. Prominent centers and institutes are currently focused on areas like:

  • Applied Energy Research
  • Computational Science
  • Structural Biology
  • Membrane Sciences
  • Geology
  • Water Resources
  • Violence Against Women

Clinical trials currently being conducted at Kentucky encompass a vast array of interests, including obesity, cancer, sleep disorders and drug addiction.

Louisiana State University

Baton Rouge, LA

The Baton Rouge campus of LSU received $94.6 million from federal departments and agencies for R&D in 2013, up from $92.6 million in the previous fiscal year. Compared to the statewide allocations for the same year, the institution received 34% of the overall budget.

The school currently funds more than 1,000 research projects, in topics ranging from materials science and high-performance computing to communication and individual behavior. Recent research highlights include working with wetland areas in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

University of Maine

Orono, ME

The University of Maine ranks in the top 25% of all American-based research institutions, with an annual federal R&D budget of $77.6 million for the 2013 fiscal year. When compared to the overall institutional budget given by the federal government for research and development, UM receives 47% overall. Neuroscience is a significant area of research for the university, with other centers and institutes devoted to areas like:

  • Advanced Materials
  • Aquaculture
  • Climate Change
  • Forestry
  • Marine Sciences
  • Precision Manufacturing

Unique research coming out of Maine include the world's largest database of chromosomal images, used to detect tumors, the monitoring of inflatable structures designed by NASA and studies on the sleep behavior and neurophysiological patterns of sleeping infants.

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

As the first research university to be founded in America, it’s no wonder that Johns Hopkins also received the largest amount of federal R&D funding in the nation for the 35th consecutive year. In the 2013 fiscal year, the institution was given $2.17 billion dollars, or 14% of the statewide budget for research and development. Centers and institutes are split into divisions, consisting of the following:

  • Applied Physics
  • Arts and Sciences
  • Advanced International Studies
  • Business
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Public Health

A sample of noteworthy innovations at the university include inventing water purification systems, authenticating the Dead Sea scrolls, creating the field of genetic engineering, developing saccharine, creating the CPR method and inventing the supersonic ramjet engine.

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Located in the heart of American academia, Boston-based Harvard ranks 7th in national R&D expenditures, with obligations for the 2013 fiscal year totaling $594.4 million. Despite a vast number of active research institutions throughout the state, HU received more than 10% of the overall R&D budget. Areas for R&D are vast, with research taking place in more than 100 institutes and centers, on campus and in international locations. Researchers have made major advances in the following fields (just to name a few):

  • Stem Cell Research
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Cancer
  • Brain Development
  • Genetics

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

Coming in second place for total R&D expenditures behind Johns Hopkins University, UM received $814.2 million from the federal government for research and development in the 2013 fiscal year. The entire state received $1.826 billion during the same period, meaning the university received nearly 45% of statewide federal funding.

In 2014 alone, the research division patented over 430 new inventions, with pioneering work completed in microbeam analysis, nanofabrication and robotics. Standout innovations include helping to develop iodized salt, establishing the first genetics department and developing pharmacokinetics.

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN

The Minneapolis-based University of Minnesota ranks in the top three percent of total R&D expenditures for national institutions, receiving annual federal obligations in the amount of $494.2 million. Given that the state’s total federal research and development budget was set at $939.7 million during the same period, UM’s amount represents well over half of overall spending. Interests are heavily focused on biomedical research, five on-campus buildings devoted exclusively to forming a biomedical complex. Other areas include:

  • Dentistry
  • Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
  • Liberal Arts
  • Pharmacy
  • Engineering and Veterinary Medicine

UM has innovated a number of breakthrough ideas, including the black box flight recorder, anti-AIDS drug Ziagen and 26 different varieties of apples. It was also where the first open heart surgery and first transplants of a pancreas and human bone marrow took place.

University of Mississippi

University, MS

Nationally, the University of Mississippi receives more funding than 88% of all other institutions, with federal R&D spending for the 2013 fiscal year equaling $64.6 million. Compared with the statewide federal research and development budget of $567.7 million, this public research university receives well over 10%. Current research centers range from intelligence and security studies to earthquake preparedness and botanical dietary supplements. The school is internationally recognized for its work in transplantation, being the first institution to transplant a human lung. It was also responsible for the first transplant of an animal heart to a human, using that of a chimpanzee.

Washington University in St. Louis

Saint Louis, MO

In the 2013 fiscal year, Missouri received $1.058 billion in federal dollars earmarked toward research and development. Of that sum, WUSL received $411.3 million, or nearly 39% of the total annual budget. Out of 23 Nobel Laureates who’ve called the university home, nine completed their groundbreaking research while at the school.

WUSL is recognized for its advancements in social work and public health and is world renowned for breakthroughs in medicine. The Genome Center played a massive role in the Human Genome Project, contributing one-quarter of the completed sequence.

Montana State University

Bozeman, MT

With an annual federal research and development budget of $73.6 million for the 2013 fiscal year, MSU at Bozeman is the largest and leading research institution in the state. During the same period, it garnered well over half of the statewide federal R&D obligations of $134.5 million, highlighting the importance of ongoing work taking place at the university. The school grew its research funding by over 60% between 2000 and 2009, demonstrating a commitment to pursuing innovation and invention. Top research areas include:

  • Biofilm Engineering
  • Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials
  • Computational Biology
  • Thermal Biology
  • Paleontology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Ecosystems
  • Microfabrication
  • Immunology

MSU is responsible for much of the research conducted within the Yellowstone ecosystem, historically receiving five times more funding for Yellowstone-related work than any other institution.

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Omaha, NE

Located in the capital of Omaha, UNMC is a leading medical research center with federal R&D obligations totaling $80.8 million dollars for the 2013 fiscal year. When taking into account that the entire state received $200.5 million for the same period, the importance placed on this university quickly becomes clear. The school is recognized for its clinical trials, which have paved the way for treatments in:

  • HIV Care
  • Genetics
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders
  • Neuroscience
  • Transplantation

Pioneering work in alcohol and smoking related diseases also make UNMC stand out both nationally and internationally.

University of Nevada - Reno

Reno, NV

Operating as one of two institutions in the University of Nevada system, UNR was provided with $56.9 million in federal research and development dollars for 2013, ranking it in the top 75th percentile of R&D expenditures in the nation. Nevada as a whole received $584.52 million in R&D earmarked federal dollars, meaning UNR received just less than one-tenth of the full budgeted amount.

The school is nationally recognized for the work of the College of Engineering in areas of earthquake preparedness, structural testing and civil engineering, while innovations in microbiology, climate change and computer science are also well regarded. Proving its commitment to being a top research institution, the school has tripled its sponsored grants and contracts in the last decade, which now exceeds more than $150 million annually.

Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

New Hampshire-based Dartmouth College rounds out the top 100 institutions with the highest amounts of R&D expenditures, filling the 99th spot. In the 2013 fiscal year, DC received $155.2 million in federal dollars earmarked toward research and development. The school is a perennial frontrunner in medical and engineering innovations, with other active areas in the arts and sciences and business. Home to more than 50 centers and institutes, researchers are pioneering studies in:

  • Aging
  • Brain Function
  • Electroacoustic Music
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Decision Making
  • Children’s Environmental Health

Rutgers University - New Brunswick

New Brunswick, NJ

In 2013, RSUNJ expended over $493.3 million in research and development, and $295 million of these were federal dollars earmarked for such activities. With a statewide federal R&D budget of $1.727 billion, RSUNJ’s share alone constitutes over 17%. The school is one of 62 research institutions that is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and has also been classified as having very high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation. The school’s university libraries rank among the nation’s best and is the 44th largest in the country.

Leading areas of research range from biomedicine and food technology to environmental agriculture and democracy. Selman Waksman received the Nobel Prize for Medicine due to his discovery of the antibiotic for treating tuberculosis while at Rutgers. Other notable innovations include:

  • Water-Soluble Sustained Release Polymers
  • Robotic Hands
  • Ceramic Tiles for the Space Shuttle
  • Artificial Bovine Insemination

University of New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM

Operating as a large public research institution, UNM was allocated $158.1 million dollars in 2013 to conduct research and development. New Mexico state received $3.42 billion over the same period, providing UNM with 4.6% of overall funding. The Carnegie Foundation gave the school an RU/VH ranking, meaning it is considered to have very high research activity. Research is divided into eight category III centers and one institute, each housing a broad array of activities and interests. Some of the most well regarded include studies in:

  • Advanced Research Computing
  • Alcoholism
  • Substance Abuse and Addictions
  • Materials
  • Policy, Evaluation and Applied Research
  • Southwestern Studies

UNM's Southwestern research efforts are some of the most extensive in the nation, encompassing the archaeology, biology, climate and culture of the region. A recent highlight is a Ph.D. student's work on stream flow, with the Rio Grande at the inception of the study.

Columbia University

New York, NY

Based in the largest city in the U.S., Columbia University is in the 97th percentile for total R&D expenditures, with nearly $636 million being poured into the institution by the federal government annually for research and development. In a state that receives $4.605 billion annually for federal R&D, CU commands a significant 14% in overall funds.

The school has a longstanding history of innovative research, first hitting the international spotlight for its research into atoms and starting The Manhattan Project in the 1940s. Today, the institution has a wide spectrum of research interests, ranging from health sciences and pharmaceutics to American studies and climate change.

Duke University

Durham, NC

During the 2013 fiscal year, North Carolina-based Duke University received nearly $1 billion in R&D funds, with $582 million coming from federal dollars. The school is ranked 8th nationally for R&D expenditures and commands 33% of the state’s $1.759 billion in federal research and development funds.

Current research interests are vast, ranging from forestry and chemistry to plant nanostructures and public policy. The school has been credited with creating the first working invisibility cloak, along with mapping the last human chromosome for the Human Genome Project.

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, ND

In a state that received $89.5 million in federal dollars earmarked for research and development, the University of North Dakota’s obligations totaled $46.5 million, or more than half of the statewide budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

The Carnegie Foundation gave the university a ranking indicating a high level of research, with special focus given to aerospace, energy, environmental sciences, health sciences and nutrition. The biggest area of expenditures is in environmental protection, with ongoing research devoted to hydrogen technology and energy consumption.

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, OH

CWRU is a private research institution in Cleveland, with federal R&D funds for the 2013 fiscal year exceeding $349 million. As a whole, Ohio received $2.426 billion, giving Case Western 14.4% of the overall budget. Special areas of interest include biomedicine, electrochemistry and electrochemical engineering, with other topics ranging from robotics and genetics to mental health and physics.

The school has the distinction of being the home of the first person to win a Nobel Prize in science, of being home to the first doctor to perform a blood transfusion and being the research institution where drinking water chlorination was developed.

University of Oklahoma

Norman, OK

In a state receiving $262.5 million annually in federal money earmarked for research and development, OU claims more than half of those funds. In the 2013 fiscal year, the school was allotted $134.3 million, or 51.1%, of the full budget for Oklahoma. In addition to three other campuses that also carry out R&D, the school has another campus devoted exclusively to these pursuits. Specific areas of work include:

  • Radar Innovations
  • Vaccinations
  • Astrophysics
  • Biochemistry

The school's research campus is home to the National Weather Center, putting it at the forefront of meteorological studies; recent work conducted includes the launch of a lab dedicated to innovations in radar and an extensive research panel on lightning studies.

Oregon Health & Science University

Portland, OR

Located in the state’s capital, OHSU is a leading medical and science research institution with an annual federal R&D budget of $246.5 million. In a state whose overall budget for the same purposes is $711.1 million, OHSU’s 35% portion is significant. The reason for this significant investment lies both in the fact that the university is the state’s only academic healthcare center, but also because it perennially pioneers cures, better care and greater understanding of biomedicine. Some of the significant areas of research include:

  • ALS
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • Methamphetamine Abuse
  • Molecular Diagnostics
  • Geriatrics

The school is also home to the first program funded by the Clinical and Translational Sciences Award.

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

UPenn is a large, public research institution with a federal R&D budget that confirms the level of importance placed on the findings coming out of this university. The school ranks 18th out of 643 institutions for total R&D expenditures, with 2013 funding exceeding $636.5 million. Pennsylvania as a whole received $3.295 billion during the same time, giving UPenn a 19.3% share.

The school as a whole is focused on interdisciplinary learning, and this methodology is also employed in R&D efforts. Many of the research centers and institutes on campus incorporate at least two disciplines. Important innovations coming out of the school include:

  • The First General-Purpose Computer
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Vaccines for Rubella and Hepatitis B
  • Conjoint Analysis

Brown University

Providence, RI

As one of the preeminent Ivy League research institutions in the nation, Brown consistently ranks in the 90th percentile for research and development expenditures. In the 2013 fiscal year, the school received $126.6 million from the federal government, a 26% share of Rhode Island’s total $486.4 budget during the same time period.

Brown is consistently recognized internationally for its innovations and progressive modes of research, with centers and institutes spanning from school reform and biomedical engineering to women’s health and Latin American studies. Currently, the school is making waves due to groundbreaking research into higher-quality carbon nanotubes.

Medical University of South Carolina

Charleston, SC

As one of the oldest medical schools in America that’s been in continual operation, MUSC has a long and distinguished history of groundbreaking research. In the 2013 fiscal year, the university received $127.5 million in federal R&D funding, or 32% of the state’s entire federal research and development budget of $397.5 million.

Researchers focused on addictions neuroscience received the second highest amount of funding of any institution during the 2010-2011 academic year, but the school is also heavily involved in research surrounding the following areas:

  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer
  • Biomedicine
  • Molecular Morphology
  • Seahorse Bioscience

South Dakota State University

Brookings, SD

SDSU, the largest university in South Dakota, receives a significant part of the state’s federal funding for research and development activities. The 2013 fiscal year saw the school being given $33.2 million and putting it in the top 28% of all institutional spending for R&D. The school is active in many different areas of research but is consistently recognized for advancements in the fields of engineering, agricultural science and biological science.

In addition to many centers and institutes located around the campus, the school also has numerous agricultural research stations scattered throughout South Dakota. Notable accomplishments over the year include creating the first research center for ethanol fuel, inventing the internal combustion engine and developing cookies and cream ice cream.

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN

Though Vanderbilt is located in the heart of Music City U.S.A., this private research institution has its finger on the international research pulse. Tennessee has a statewide federal R&D budget of $2.119 billion, and Vanderbilt’s annual obligation of $445 million accounts for 21% of overall research and development spending. Some of the most innovative areas of research the school is currently conducting include work on:

  • Public Policy
  • The First Amendment
  • Biomedicine
  • Coffee
  • Horticulture

One of the odder forms of "research" conducted at Vanderbilt is work on the game bridge, particularly contract bridge, which is believed to be invented in the 20s by no less than Harold S. Vanderbilt, a great-grandson of the founding family. The university maintains its own bridge center.

Baylor College of Medicine

Houston, TX

BCM is part of the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world. In the 2013 fiscal year alone, the institution received $285.2 million in federal dollars earmarked for research and development. The state as a whole received $5.234 billion during the same year, meaning BCM was obligated a 5.5% share of R&D funding. Specific areas of research include:

  • Gene Therapy
  • Aging
  • Macromolecular Imaging
  • Computational Biology
  • DNA sequencing

The school is also distinguished for having the only school of tropical medicine serving both patient and research needs. Notable past researchers at the institution have been responsible for a variety of groundbreaking work, including implanting the first artificial heart, pioneering minimally invasive treatment for vascular disease and developing the first cardiac autotransplantation for cardiac sarcoma.

University of Utah

Salt Lake City, UT

During the 2013 fiscal year, the University of Utah expended nearly half a billion dollars in research and development, and $301 million of this funding came from federal funds. The Carnegie Foundation identified the school as having very high research activity, with interests spanning from cerebrovascular diseases and cell signaling to extreme data management and human toxicology.

UU has been in the international spotlight multiple times throughout the years for pioneering research, including unique genetics research with the LDS Church, which allowed researchers to follow genetic diseases through multiple generations. The school is also responsible for implanting the first permanent artificial heart in 1982.

University of Vermont

Burlington, VT

In a state that received $102.95 million in federal dollars for research and development, the University of Vermont’s $85.1 million budget takes up a massive 82.6% of overall funding. All research is completed under the umbrella of eight different colleges, with focuses ranging from Holocaust studies and translational science to substance abuse and neurodevelopmental disability.

Although the school has less capacity than massive Big Ten schools, it is consistently recognized as one of the top 25 small research universities in America.

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

Virginia is home to a number of prominent research institutions, and UVA consistently ranks at the top of that list. In the 2013 fiscal year, the school received $225.6 million in federal R&D funding, a 2.8% slice of the state’s overall federal budget for such activities. This is the highest amount of funding for any other institution in Virginia and helps the school maintain its classification of having very high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation. Specific areas of research conducted include:

  • Astrophysics
  • Environmental Health
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Comparative Medicine
  • Biomedical Innovation
  • Latin American studies

University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Over the past four years, UW has expended more funds toward research and development than 98% of all institutions in the nation, with federal funds totaling $928.2 million in 2013. Overall, federal R&D funds for the state equaled $3.434 billion for the same year, giving UW 27% of the total budget. It receives more federal funding than any other public university and ranks second amongst both public and private institutions for federal R&D spending. In 2015, Reuters named UW the world's most innovative public university; some of the school's most recent efforts capture that innovation: such as launching the world's largest underwater observatory, creating a new computing language to help build DNA models and studying ferret genomes to better treat respiratory diseases in humans.

UW also has the distinction of owning ResearchChannel, the only television channel devoted to sharing academic research findings. Research interest at the school cover an array of fields, ranging from Asian law and infant mental health to lung biology and penguins.

West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV

The 2013 fiscal year saw WVU expend $167.1 million on research and development, and the federal government supplied $74.7 million of those funds. As a whole, the federal government allotted the state $171.45 million during the same time period, meaning WVU received over 44% of total obligations. The Carnegie Foundation has recognized the university for having a high level of research activity, with institutes centered around areas like:

  • Neuroscience
  • Biometrics
  • Biomedicine
  • Clinical Science
  • Translational Science

Researchers at the school have received global recognition in years past, with innovations including a cloned American chestnut, the discovery of millisecond pulsars and pioneering biometric identification used by the FBI.

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Madison, WI

UWM ranks fourth out of 643 American institutions in terms of total R&D expenditures, with the federal government supplying more than $555.8 million in 2013 alone. This number is even more significant when considering the federal research and development budget for the entire state was $654 million during the same time. The school is a founding member of the Association of American Universities and has been given a ranking of very high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation. Active areas of research include:

  • Astrophysics
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Neuroscience
  • Oceanography

Major breakthroughs coming out of UWM include the first isolated human embryonic stem cells, extensive work in oceanography and coastal protection and, most recently, work developing and thereby better understanding leukemia cells.

University of Wyoming

Laramie, WY

Although the University of Wyoming is smaller than many institutions on this list, it still maintains an active an impressive roster of research endeavors. The federal government allocated nearly $54 million toward research and development activities for 2013, an impressive portion of the state’s whole federal budget for R&D programs. Areas of investment and research include:

  • Anthropology
  • Agriculture
  • Biodiversity
  • Energy Resources
  • Engineering
  • Neuroscience
  • Water

Given its rural location, some of U. Wyoming's greatest accomplishments rest in agriculture, water research and animal husbandry, with a recent announcement spotlighting work on nontraditional crops, innovations in the care of dairy cattle and breakthroughs in controlling the animal and plant diseases that hurt farmers the most, such as poultry diseases and a particular form of potato blight.

Federal obligations are the financial agreements and contracts that stipulate federal spending. While the federal budget is being created, certain programs are given authority to disburse funds to appropriate entities. Some of the leading governmental departments and agencies approved to fund academic institutions include:

  • Department of Commerce: In 2011, the DOC obligated $1.4 billion in R&D funds, of which 29% was allocated toward businesses, universities and colleges. Specific uses include research in oceanic and atmospheric administration.
  • Department of Defense: The DOD's 2011 obligations totaled $6.6 billion and promoted research in engineering, mathematics, computer science, physical science and life science.
  • Department of Energy: The DOE obligated $6.8 billion in 2011 for R&D, with funding providing for research related to physical science, engineering, mathematics and computer science.
  • Department of Education: The ED obligated more than $100 million during 2011.
  • Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA obligated more than $100 million during 2011 to areas of environmental sustainability, climate change and forestry.
  • Department of Health & Human Services: HHS accounted for 54% of all federal obligations during the 2011 fiscal year, with $31.8 billion going toward both basic and applied research.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: With a budget of $8.4 billion, NASA obligated funds to engineering, the physical sciences and environmental sciences.
  • National Science Foundation: The NSF used its $5.4 billion to fund research in areas of basic science, engineering, environmental science, mathematics, computer science, the physical sciences and engineering.
  • Department of Agriculture: In the 2011 fiscal year, the USDA disbursed $2.4 billion in obligations, directed towards the life and agricultural sciences.

To see a full list of federal obligations, review the National Science Foundation's report on federal R&D performance and funding.