As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the University of Notre Dame received $34.7 million to support 29 different research initiatives. Notre Dame is the single largest recipient of stimulus dollars in St. Joseph County, where funds dispersed totaled just over $150 million.
The majority of the $787 billion distributed as part of the ARRA were intended to create jobs and promote investment and consumer spending. However, the portion Notre Dame received was part of $21.5 billion doled out by Congress for research and development spending.
According to Robert J. Bernhard, the university’s vice president of research, stimulus funding has been used in a variety of ways to support research at Notre Dame. “Some of the funds were used to purchase laboratory equipment and some to employ researches, including undergraduate students, graduate students, post doctoral fellows, and research staff,” he stated.
The specific research initiatives the stimulus dollars support vary greatly, not only in terms of the subject matter they focus on, but also in the level of funding they have been allotted. For instance, a nanotechnology research consortium led by Notre Dame received $10 million dollars, while $34,800 was given to study blood coagulation proteins.
The application process for federal funding was competitive, as receipt of ARRA money was not necessarily guaranteed.
“Researchers submitted proposals to various federal agencies, which were then evaluated in a rigorous and independent competitive process to determine the worthiness of the proposals and the funding levels relative to the many other proposals they received from other universities,” said Bernhard. “These have nothing to do with funds that are attached to legislation – sometimes known as earmarks.”
Notre Dame was not the only university in the state of Indiana to benefit from the stimulus package. By comparison, Purdue University was awarded $130.3 million for 198 proposals while Indiana University has received $62.7 million to support 180 proposals, with $16.7 million still expected.
Although job creation is not the primary purpose of the funds which Notre Dame has received thus far, Bernhard said that new employees have been hired by the university as a result of ARRA funding.
“[The stimulus money is] used to fund research, including people and equipment, and to build research infrastructure,” he stated. “Jobs have been created. It’s expected that the infrastructure upgrades will lead to more research, including jobs, and that some of the research will lead to commercial application and more jobs in the future.”
“In our last quarterly report, there had been 90 jobs created,” Bernhard pointed out. “There will be more jobs in the next quarterly report.”
While Bernhard is excited about the research opportunities ARRA support has created at Notre Dame, he said that he is also mindful that stimulus funding is taxpayer money intended to reinvigorate the nation’s fledgling economy.
“We are very aware that ARRA funding is intended to create jobs and build infrastructure,” he said. “We are working diligently to be good stewards of these funds.”
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