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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is putting more money into research than ever before, setting a record for research and development expenditures last year at $164 million.

The marks a 165% increase in R&D spending at UL Lafayette in seven years, increasing by $102 million — from $62 million to $164 million — between 2013 and 2020, according to the Higher Education Research and Development Survey by the National Science Foundation.

"Those numbers cut across a variety of areas," said Ramesh Kolluru, vice president for research, innovation and economic development at UL Lafayette. "We are writing more proposals, going after more opportunities to earn grants, which is money we bring into the university and then can spend it to conduct research."

University research fields range from early childhood education at the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning to water management at the Louisiana Watershed Flood Center to big data at the Informatics Research Institute.

"For the past 10 years we've been looking at 'How do we make sense of data?'" said Henry Chu, executive director of the Informatics Research Institute. "The next 10 will be about 'How do we use intelligence and apply it and make society and industry better?' That is the call of our research."

Capabilities at the university continue to expand.

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This month, the National Science Foundation announced it is awarding UL Lafayette a $6 million grant to lead a carbon capture and utilization project. The project aims to improve infrastructure by establishing a "Tri-State Institute of Manufacturing" to advance carbon capture, utilization and storage technology

"We have deep connections to the oil and gas industry," Kolluru said. "As the industry is transitioning, we continue to stay a step or two ahead to support it. We care deeply about translating our research into solutions."

This growth in research was among milestones highlighted Wednesday in President Joseph Savoie's State of the University address. He also noted:

  • historic levels of philanthropy;
  • dedicated faculty and staff who have "remained steady" through continued pandemic-related challenges and natural disasters in the past year;
  • the prominence of Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics; and
  • the leadership UL Lafayette provides to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the state and national levels.

Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, followed the past year's highlights with a look ahead, giving a presentation about the university's ongoing strategic planning process.

More:UL Lafayette issues student COVID-19 vaccination requirement guidelineHe said it will take everyone, from faculty and staff to students and community members, working together for success.

"To truly realize our potential and allow ourselves to capitalize on the amazing people and the strengths we have within each division, we must take the time — we must take the opportunity — to align our priorities," Hebert said during his presentation.

"We must push in the same direction in support of what we determine is most important to us collectively. We can only reach that next level of success together."


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Photo: Dr. Henry Chu, Executive Director, Informatics Research Institute/ Scott Clause USA TODAY Network