Big Boost in Federal Funding for Scientific Research

Budget Increases Include 5.3 Percent for National Institutes for Health, 4.1 Percent for National Science Foundation

President Biden on Tuesday signed a federal budget that includes $45 billion for the National Institutes for Health (NIH)—a $2.25 billion, 5.3 percent increase—and provides an additional $1 billion to establish the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). According to the NIH, “ARPA-H will be tasked with building high-risk, high-reward capabilities (or platforms) to drive biomedical breakthroughs—ranging from molecular to societal—that would provide transformative solutions for all patients.” The $45 billion will be distributed among the institutes and centers, with none receiving less than a 3.4 percent boost.

The budget also includes:

  • $8.84 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), an increase of $351 million, or 4.1 percent
  • $7.48 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, up $49 million, or 6.4 percent
  • $7.61 billion for NASA’s science program, an increase of 4 percent
  • $1.23 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an increase of 19 percent

More than 80 percent of the NIH budget is dedicated to extramural research, meaning research that the NIH funds in the form of grants to more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state. Securing NIH funding not only supports the research itself, but also provides an institution with leverage to attract donors willing to fund construction of new facilities.

In addition, the NIH directly funds construction through Research Facilities Construction Grants (C06 grants), which provide matching federal funds of up to 75 percent for construction or major remodeling to create new research facilities; and G20 grants for the repair, renovation, and modernization of existing research facilities.

The increased allocation for the NIH represents the continuation of a trend that began in 2016, when the NIH received its first funding increase in 12 years. It includes $6.9 billion for the National Cancer Institute, an increase of 5.4 percent.

“The FY 2022 budget continues to advance NIH’s long-standing commitment to investing in basic research and the arc of translation into clinical practice,” Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., former director of the NIH, writes in the budget justification submitted to Congress.

NIST will see its funding for construction of research facilities increase by 157 percent, from $80 million in fiscal year 2021 to $206 million in 2022. Funding for in-house research will see an 8 percent increase.

NIST, like NIH, also invests a large portion of its funding in extramural grants. In February, NIST awarded nearly $54 million in grants for 13 R&D projects at manufacturing innovation institutes. The funding, from the American Rescue Act, is dedicated to pandemic response.

NIST is also looking to promote domestic semi-conductor capacity with investments in R&D and manufacturing facilities.

Climate Change Preparedness

The NSF funds a wide variety of research endeavors across virtually every field of science, engineering, and education.

In January, for example, the NSF awarded a four-year, $12.8 million grant to Florida International University (FIU) to design a lab that will test the integrity of buildings battered by hurricanes so powerful they exceed the current five-category scale used to measure them. The facility will subject multi-story houses and other buildings, constructed for this purpose, to 200-MPH winds and 20-foot simulated storm surges.

Research at the National Full-Scale Testing Infrastructure for Community Hardening in Extreme Wind, Surge, and Wave Events—or NICHE—will involve the collaboration of nine universities across the country. This first round of funding is for the design alone. The building itself, which will be the first facility of its kind in that it can test both wind loads and wave impacts on a structure, could be completed by 2030.

The federal budget also includes $35 million to help build a $75 million digital research laboratory at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. The addition will be between 78,000 sf and 92,000 sf. Nicknamed the “factory of the future,” the facility will be designed to utilize artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and large 3D printers to advance large-scale, bio-based additive manufacturing.

In addition to extramural grants, the U.S. Department of Energy also funds construction of its own facilities. The DOE will break ground this spring on the first phase of a planned 600,000-gsf Discovery Park complex on the Brookhaven Lab campus, which will include a research facility for the New York Center for Grid Innovation, a science education venue, an extended-stay hotel, and a technology park. The $86.2 million, 75,000-gsf Science and User Support Center in phase one is expected to be completed in 2024.

By Lisa Wesel

Published 3-16-2022