Aviation

Wichita State ranks 4th in U.S. in aeronautical research spending

Among the features of the National Institute for Aviation Research is the Ballistics and Impact Dynamics Lab.
Among the features of the National Institute for Aviation Research is the Ballistics and Impact Dynamics Lab. File photo

Wichita State University ranked fourth in aeronautical engineering research expenditures among American universities in 2014, with $39.8 million, according to National Science Foundation data.

WSU ranked first among universities for the amount of its aerospace research and development coming from business, with $29 million. The remaining money came from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA and the state of Kansas.

For the year before, WSU reported $43 million in aeronautical engineering research, including $24 million from business.

WSU’s funding goes mainly to the National Institute for Aviation Research, the nation’s largest university-based aerospace R&D institute. In 2014, NIAR’s top industry clients included Beechcraft, Bombardier, General Atomics and Learjet.

Overall, WSU ranks 182 of 634 U.S. universities for all research funding at $58.9 million.

John Tomblin, WSU’s vice president of research and technology transfer and executive director of NIAR, said that the federal funding for scientific research has stagnated because of congressional efforts to tighten the budget. As those dollars have dropped, WSU has been able to make those up with private research and private dollars.

“Instead of relying on the federal government, it’s partnering with industry to do that,” Tomblin said.

He said that even though aircraft industry interest in funding research at WSU has generally risen over the last 20 years, it spiked during the recessions, when companies are most looking to reinvent themselves and their products.

He said he expects federal government research spending to pick back up in coming years, as well, generally raising dollars available to all researchers at WSU.

Besides aerospace engineering, expenditures are: engineering other than aerospace, $8.5 million; non-science and engineering fields, such as teaching, $5.2 million; psychology, $2 million; life sciences, $1.5 million; physical sciences, $802,000; social sciences, $512,000; environmental sciences, $313,000; and math and computer sciences, $117,000.

Dan Voorhis: 316-268-6577, @danvoorhis

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