KU research employs nearly 4,000 on campus, buys $50.7M in goods and services from Kansas companies

Editor's note: A previous version of this story relied on data that has since been updated by KU and IRIS. Accordingly, research-related spending amounts and locations, as well as the percentage of students in KU’s research workforce, have been adjusted for accuracy. 

March 2023 update: The story also previously stated that researcher salaries were included in spending on research-related goods and services in Douglas County; that is not the case, and the story has been updated accordingly.

LAWRENCE — Sponsored research at the University of Kansas supported the salaries of 3,974 people in 2021 and accounted for $50.7 million in spending with Kansas companies on research-related goods and services, according to a new report. About 32% of research-funded employees were students (graduate or undergraduate), and about 20% were faculty.

“KU research addresses some of society’s most important problems and helps fuel the state’s economy by investing in Kansas communities,” said Simon Atkinson, vice chancellor for research. “We value our mutually beneficial partnerships with businesses and organizations across the state — from health care and manufacturing facilities to school districts and social service agencies — and we are committed to expanding those relationships in the years ahead.”

The report, produced by the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science, also details the geographic distribution of KU research-related spending. In 2021, KU pumped research-related revenue into 77 of 105 Kansas counties, and vendors in each of 15 of those counties received more than $100,000 in purchases. Douglas County topped the list, with expenditures around $33.5 million.

KU’s research-related economic impact extends beyond the data captured in the IRIS report. For example, 43 active startup companies have spun out of KU or are based on KU technologies, and 25 of those companies are located in Kansas. Through the university’s relationship with the KU Innovation Park, KU researchers help attract businesses to Lawrence and the surrounding area — companies like Archer Daniels Midland and Garmin — who want to be close to KU researchers and students. The park system includes 62 companies and accounts for more than 500 private sector jobs and $30.4 million in annual direct payroll.

IRIS is a national consortium of research universities organized around an IRB-approved data repository, housed at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. IRIS’s reports help explain the economic impact of university research.

“Through these data-driven reports, our goal is to better understand and explain — and ultimately improve — the public value of higher education and research,” said IRIS Executive Director Jason Owen-Smith, a professor of sociology and executive director for research analytics at the University of Michigan.

This report is based on administrative data the KU supplied to IRIS, which was then merged with other public and private datasets. Reports are available to IRIS members. No individual businesses, employees or students are identifiable in the reports.

More than 350 researchers from 105 institutions have accessed IRIS data through its virtual data enclave, and more than 40 published papers and three books have used the data.

Photo: Susan Williams, Charles E. & Mary Jane Spahr Professor of Engineering, works with students in the biodiesel production lab on the KU campus in this 2021 image. Credit: Meg Kumin, KU Marketing Communications.

Wed, 01/26/2022


Mindie Paget

Media Contacts

Mindie Paget

Office of Research