News & Trends

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news & trends Study shows impacts of US science funding felt beyond the lab A new study published in Science indicates that university research and the funding that supports it are a “key component of the United States economic ecosystem.” Conducted by researchers from the American Institutes for Research, Committee on Institutional Cooperation, University of Michigan, University of Chicago, and Ohio State University, the study found that the economic impact of science funding extends far past the scientific community. “The process of scientific research supports organizations and jobs in many of the high-skill sectors of our economy,” write the researchers, who cite several reasons for the impact. University research provides jobs to faculty members, but the study also found that fewer than one in five workers supported by federal research funds are faculty researchers. Instead, one in three is a student—graduate or undergraduate—and one in ten a postdoctoral fellow. University research also provides spending that stretches beyond state lines. The new dataset used by the research team revealed that universities receiving federal research funds spend those dollars throughout the U.S., with almost 70 percent spent outside of the institution’s home state. Expenditures with U.S. vendors and subcontractors in 2012 tallied almost $1 billion—15 percent of which was located in the university’s home county, 15 percent in the home state, and the remaining 70 percent across the country. University research provides spending that benefits companies of all sizes, with the impact reaching enterprises big and small. Many of the vendors were large companies, but the study’s authors note, “we were struck Credit: S. Leary; U. of Georgia; Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 A new study shows that university research funding—and the work it supports—is vital to the U.S. economic ecosystem. by how many are small, niche, hightechnology companies.” University research also provides scientific solutions to real world problems outside the research community. It is no secret that the work of scientists and engineers impacts everyday life, but that impact is not always recognized. “Research universities are dedicated to the discovery of new knowledge,” says coauthor Roy Weiss, deputy provost for research at the University of Chicago. “This study reports the first cooperative endeavor by multiple universities to evaluate the benefit of government investment in research. In addition to making the world a better place by virtue of these discoveries, we now have data to support the overall benefits to society.” The paper is “Science funding and short-term economic activity” (DOI: 10.1126/science.1250055). n DOE fuels US competitiveness in fuel cell market with $3M In an ongoing effort to give United States businesses more cost-efficient and cleaner energy options, the Department of Energy recently awarded $3 million to strengthen the country’s competitiveness in the fuel cell market. According to a DOE news release, FuelCell Energy (Danbury, Conn.) will use the monies to fund a project that will “enhance the performance, increase the lifespan, and decrease the cost of stationary fuel cells being used for distributed generation and combined heat and power applications. “With support from the Energy Department, the private sector and the department’s national laboratories have significantly reduced costs and improved performance in fuel cell and hydrogen technologies,” says the release. “Building on this progress, the project awarded today will focus on developing an innovative carbonate fuel cell electrolyte matrix, which promises enhanced cell output and the doubling of service life, which will reduce the costs and enhance the market for efficient, clean fuel cell power. In addition, the project will look for more opportunities to reduce costs through greater production by incorporating manufacturing process improvements.” The fuel cell industry is a billiondollar industry with market share to be gained. Countries in the Asian Pacific ship more than three-quarters of fuel cell systems worldwide, but the U.S. is quickly gaining ground with a series of strategic investments. In 2012, industry revenues exceeded $1 billion worldwide, and U.S. companies received close to 80 percent of investment in the industry. America is among the top four dominant producers of stationary fuel cells, which account for half of all fuel cell shipments worldwide. Since 2008, the DOE’s efforts have reduced high-volume manufacturing costs for fuel cells by more than 30 percent, increased shipments from 1,000 units to 5,000 units annually, American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 93, No. 5 | www.ceramics.org 3


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