External funding for research and instruction projects at the University of Hawaii surged to more than $425 million in the recently completed fiscal year — a jump of $33 million or 8.5 percent over last year and the first increase after three consecutive years of funding declines, UH officials disclosed Wednesday.

Cuts in federal agency budgets over the past several years have limited growth in funded projects at most major research universities, such as UH. But a focus on areas of emerging scientific interest helped UH faculty researchers bring in $425,650,338 in contracts and grants for fiscal year 2015.

“The entire state should take pride in our increase in extramural research funding,” said David Lassner, UH president, in a press release. “This not only advances the Hawaii Innovation Initiative and strengthens our economy, but benefits the people of Hawaii as our remarkable faculty and staff address challenges and opportunities of local and global importance.”

University leaders pointed to multiple areas as driving the increase, particularly programs at their community college and university campuses serving Native Hawaiians in areas such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, Hawaiian culture and language, leadership development and campus renovations. Together, those efforts were responsible for $69 million in federal grants.

UH Manoa’s Hawaii Natural Energy Institute earned $8.5 million from the Office of Naval Research for evaluation and testing of renewable energy systems for smart and micro-grids. In addition to ongoing projects on neighbor islands, the initiative recently broke ground on two “net-zero” energy classrooms at UH Manoa, due to be completed next year.

University leaders also pointed to the Pharm2Pharm program at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo, which is focused on enhancing teamwork between hospital and community pharmacists to reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits. In FY 2015, the program received $5.7 million — the third installment of a $14-million National Science Foundation Award.

The overall $425.6-million total is hardly the highest the university has recorded. In FY 2011, UH researchers brought in its biggest total ever — $488.6 million. But it does firmly re-establish UH among the most successful land grant universities in external funding, particularly at the federal level — the most competitive for scientific grant funding.

Read more here on the breakdown of FY 2015 research and non-research funding at the UH and community college campuses.

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