Fresh University R&D Data Reveal California Is No. 1



Home to institutions such as the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, the University of California San Francisco is part of the 10-campus University of California.

Photo by Barbara Ries courtesy of UCSF

For data hounds with an academic bent, the only thing better than freshly hatched data sets is freshly hatched data about academic institutions.

For companies scouring the planet for R&D partners, the only thing better than securing those partnerships is encountering fresh data about which institutions are attracting the R&D money.

Last week (two weeks earlier than last year), the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation unveiled results from its annual Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey. Among the overall findings:

  • R&D spending by academic institutions totaled $97.8 billion in FY 2022, an increase of $8.0 billion from FY 2021. R&D expenditures funded by federal sources accounted for $4.9 billion of the total increase.
  • Universities’ internally funded R&D expenditures (institution funds) were $2.1 billion greater than in FY 2021, while university R&D funded by businesses increased by $587 million to $5.7 billion after decreasing by $68 million in FY 2021. “The increases from these funding sources were the largest annual increases on record in current dollars,” said an NCSES InfoBrief with links to all data tables.
  • “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the National Institutes of Health, supported the largest federal share of R&D at $30.3 billion. This amounted to 31% of total R&D at higher education institutions in FY 2022 and 56% of total federal R&D support.” Accordingly, R&D expenditures in two life sciences subfields — health sciences ($31.9 billion total, $2.0 billion increase) and biological and biomedical sciences ($18.2 billion total, $1.6 billion increase) — showed the largest dollar increases, accounting for 45% of the total university R&D growth in FY 2022.
  • Almost half (48%) of the approximately $1.5 billion in foreign funds supporting R&D at higher education institutions originated from foreign businesses, while 23% were funded by foreign nonprofits and 21% were funded by foreign governments.



But we’re Americans. We want to know who’s winning.

The institutions with medical schools, that’s who. The top 30 institutions (the same top 30 as the past two years) included 27 with medical schools. Every top 30 institution but one reported at least $1 billion in R&D expenditures — eight more than the 21 institutions that reached that goal in FY 2020. The full top 30 are shown below.


Thirty institutions reporting the largest FY 2022 R&D expenditures in all fields: FYs 2020–22

(Millions of current dollars)

Institution Rank 2020 2021 2022
All institutions - 86,302 89,695 97,681
Leading 30 institutions - 36,630 38,126 41,266
Johns Hopkins U.a 1 3,110 3,181 3,420
U. California, San Francisco 2 1,651 1,710 1,806
U. Pennsylvania 3 1,579 1,632 1,791
U. Michigan, Ann Arbor 4 1,674 1,640 1,771
U. Washington, Seattle 5 1,457 1,489 1,560
U. California, Los Angeles 6 1,393 1,455 1,536
U. California, San Diego 7 1,404 1,425 1,533
U. Wisconsin-Madison 8 1,364 1,380 1,524
Duke U. 9 1,197 1,238 1,391
Stanford U. 10 1,204 1,274 1,385
Ohio State U. 11 968 1,236 1,363
U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill 12 1,160 1,206 1,361
Harvard U. 13 1,240 1,254 1,308
Cornell U. 14 1,190 1,184 1,300
New York U. 15 947 1,064 1,276
U. Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh 16 1,106 1,135 1,252
Georgia Institute of Technology 17 1,049 1,114 1,231
Columbia U. in the City of New York 18 1,033 1,099 1,231
U. Marylandb 19 1,103 1,142 1,229
U. Minnesota, Twin Cities 20 1,042 1,073 1,202
Yale U. 21 1,094 1,165 1,191
U. Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center 22 1,051 1,125 1,183
Texas A&M U., College Station and Health Science Center 23 1,131 1,148 1,153
Vanderbilt U. and Vanderbilt U. Medical Center 24 825 1,019 1,086
U. Florida 25 942 960 1,086
Washington U., Saint Louis 26 920 989 1,047
U. Southern California 27 941 956 1,040
Pennsylvania State U., University Park and Hershey Medical Center 28 992 971 1,020
Northwestern U. 29 875 913 1,001
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 30 988 949 989

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Higher Education Research and Development Survey.



Johns Hopkins was once again No. 1 by a large margin, its $3.4 billion total higher than the cumulative total of all but seven states and outdistancing No. 2 University of Caifornia, San Francisco by more than $1.6 billion. A footnote explains that the outsized total is helped by more than $2 billion associated with that institution’s Applied Physics Laboratory. The HERD survey reports that the only institution to move more than three spots in the rankings was New York University, which moved up eight spots to No. 15 in the nation with more than $1.27 billion in R&D expenditures.

Examining the top 100, I found that California and New York lead the way with 10 institutions apiece, thereby accounting for one-fifth of all university R&D expenditures in the states ranked No. 1 (California) and No. 4 by population. Texas (No. 2 by population) and Pennsylvania (No. 5) each have six top 100 institutions. Florida (No. 3 by population) and Illinois (No. 6) each have four top 100 institutions. The outlier in per-capita performance is Massachusetts with four top-100 institutions amid a population ranked No. 16 in the nation.

Which states are winning overall when you count all 637 reporting institutions? Led by a public University of California System that outranks all but two whole states (including its own), California accounts for more than $12.1 billion of the nation’s $97.8 billion in university R&D expenditures (12.4%). Massachusetts and Maryland (No. 19 in population) are the per-capita outliers in an otherwise predictable top 10, with Ohio and Florida just missing out by a few million dollars even though both states tally more than $3 billion. (All 50 states’ performance will be recorded as one of the “Rankings That Matter” in Site Selection magazine’s annual “State of the States” report in its January 2024 issue.)

Of note: In addition to the UC system and Johns Hopkins, the University of Texas System would qualify at No. 7 if — just as some wish Texas could be its own country — it could be its own state:


Top 10 States By University R&D Expenditure FY 2022

State, institutional control, system, and institution All R&D Expenditures ($000s)
California 12,111,505
New York 8,288,819
Texas 7,444,647
Pennsylvania 5,471,969
Maryland 5,171,692
Massachusetts 4,843,389
North Carolina 3,871,423
Georgia 3,264,605
Illinois 3,165,667
Michigan 3,087,007


Among the impressive array of tools companies and researchers can take advantage of in the NSF/NCSES data toolbox is a Data Table Builder where you can create your own table using HERD Survey data going all the way back to 1972. Among the breakout dimensions available for study are R&D Personnel at Colleges and Universities, Fields of Study, Type of R&D Funding Agreement and Location. — Adam Bruns

New York University, whose Manhattan campus facilities are centered around Washington Square Park, is the only institution among the top 30 R&D schools in the nation to have moved up substantially in the rankings.

Photo: Getty Images