Charlotte research expenditures among top third in U.S., led by computer and information sciences

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UNC Charlotte’s upward trajectory toward top-tier research university status is supported by a recent national report of research expenditures for U.S. colleges and universities.

In the latest National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development Survey, Charlotte moved into the top third of all U.S. colleges and universities for fiscal research expenditures.

“During the past decade, UNC Charlotte was among the fastest-growing universities in the nation, and with increased investment from federal and state sources, our research has flourished exponentially,” said Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber.

According to the report, Charlotte’s research expenditures have risen 87% since 2012. The University’s number of doctoral graduates has grown 62%, too, according to the NSF Earned Doctorate rankings.

CCI faculty conducting innovative research

Leading the University’s efforts is the College of Computing and Informatics, which, according to the recently released 2021 NSF HERD report, now ranks 39th in the U.S. for research expenditures in the area of computer and information sciences and second among North Carolina universities.

CCI Dean Bojan Cukic said the college has seen considerable growth in research funding during the past decade.

“Our faculty expertise in cybersecurity, bioinformatics and genomics, and artificial intelligence is attracting higher levels of federal funding,” he noted. “For the college, it aids in attracting new faculty in these areas of research excellence, and for students, it ensures they are receiving a high-quality education that will prepare them to excel in their professional careers or advanced studies.”

Charlotte is the No. 1 producer of computer science bachelor’s degrees in North Carolina, and the Queen City has become a top city for startups and a top 10 Tech Town, according to CompTIA. CCI is providing the talented, diverse tech workforce that will drive continued economic development for the region.

Key focus areas: CIPHER, cybersecurity and AI

Through investment from the General Assembly’s Engineering a Smart and Secure Future for North Carolina, Charlotte will grow enrollments in computer science, data science and engineering by more than 2,000 students during the next five years. The University’s School of Data Science was the first of its kind in the Carolinas.

Special state legislative funding for the Center for Computational Intelligence to Predict Health and Environmental Risks is powering its efforts to understand, prevent and combat future outbreaks of known and unknown infectious diseases. CIPHER, as it is known, features 20-plus experts from bioinformatics, engineering and data science to biology, mathematics and computer science, and more who are combining forces to identify vital connections among the world’s natural environment, interactions with animals and human health.

Cybersecurity is an area in which Charlotte has been a national leader for more than 20 years. CCI houses a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and Research as designated by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. Researchers are leading the investigation not only into how to keep governments and industries safe from unwarranted electronic intrusion but private homes as well.

Artificial intelligence, increasingly in the news, has wide-ranging applications from autonomous modes of transportation to affecting the boundaries of machine intelligence and human creativity. CCI faculty and students have created unmanned aerial vehicles that can survey and report a scene of a road accident, developed automated chatbots and conversational agents, and designed computer vision and analytics applications that improve customer experience at major retail stores.

“Shaping What’s Next,” UNC Charlotte’s 10-year strategic plan, lays out a new vision as an emerging top-tier global research university to support the fast-growing Charlotte region.

“UNC Charlotte’s upward trajectory is a win-win for the region,” said Gaber. “As we have seen in cities across the U.S., top-tier public research universities drive innovation and supercharge businesses, helping to advance economic mobility in their regions.”

Commercializing research

Charlotte is among national leaders in commercializing its research. Since 2018, University researchers have been awarded 87 new patents. According to the Association of University Technology Managers, Charlotte ranks in the top 10 nationally per research dollar spent for the number of new patents filed, new patents approved and new startup ventures formed.

Gaber noted greater support for Charlotte’s burgeoning research enterprise will enable the region to better compete against other metropolitan areas when it comes to attracting new industry jobs and business relocations and other investments.

About the NSF Higher Education Research and Development Survey

The Higher Education Research and Development Survey is the primary source of information on research and development expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. The survey collects information on R&D expenditures by field of research and source of funds and also gathers information on types of research, expenses, and headcounts of R&D personnel. The survey is an annual census of institutions that spent at least $150,000 in separately accounted for R&D in the fiscal year.