Continued Growth Shatters UM Record for Research Activity

UM earned $138 million in research awards in fiscal year 2021, a 38% increase from the previous year.

MISSOULA – There is more research happening at the University of Montana today than at any point in the flagship institution’s history.

For fiscal year 2021, which runs from July to June, UM reported $138 million in research awards. This sizeable increase is 38% larger than the previous year’s record-breaking research intake.

“UM is quickly emerging as a regional research leader,” said Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship and dean of the Graduate School. “This continued growth is driven by students, faculty and staff, who are motivated to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing society. It is exciting for our whole campus that UM remains on the path to achieve a Carnegie Research Very-High Activity, or R1 ranking.”

R1 is the highest classification awarded to universities in the United States based on research activity and impact.

Whittenburg noted that since 2013 UM ranks No. 6 nationally for research growth, according to data from the National Science Foundation. In the past seven years, UM’s research expenditure growth has more than doubled, and Whittenburg believes the surge in research activity will continue.

“The proposed volume of research funding requests UM made last year was $285 million, which also was a record for our university,” Whittenburg said. “This institution is in a strong position to continue this upward research trajectory, and that is in large part due to our top-ranked faculty and record graduate student enrollment.”

The research awards from the prior year are an excellent indicator of the research expenditures this year. The Office of Sponsored Programs at UM is currently determining the research expenditures that will be reported to the Commissioner’s Office in November, and will appear in the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) survey later in the year. The HERD survey is the national metric used to measure research activity and is used in determining the Carnegie Research Classification of universities.

Research investments made at UM come in a variety of forms, including research grants from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as private sector contracts. Research efforts at UM reflect the wide array of disciplines housed across the campus, including health sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, natural resources, conservation, psychology, geosciences, social sciences and computer sciences and engineering.

On-campus research at UM also has helped spur private business spinoffs, which are located in Missoula and employ dozens of researchers at high-paying salaries. Some of the UM-affiliated business spinoffs include FYR Diagnostics and Inimmune Corp.


Contact: Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship, 406-243-6670,