CU Strategic Plan: Robust research goals ahead

Regents take closer look at plan’s Discovery and Impact pillar
By Staff

CU Strategic Plan

Key research leaders across the CU system highlighted achievements and detailed goals for the next five years during Friday’s Board of Regents meeting.

For the latest deep dive into the university’s strategic plan, board members explored Discovery and Impact, one of the plan’s four pillars.

Increasingly, collaboration among two, three or all four CU campuses drives growth in research funding, affirming a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. CU researchers continue to address the needs of industry, the military, and supporters and stakeholders across the state and nation.

From CU Denver, Martin Dunn – interim chief research officer and dean and professor, College of Engineering, Design and Computing – said the campus’s sponsored research funding remains relatively flat in recent years. Year-end sponsored research award totals ranged from $18 million to $26 million since 2015.

The campus set a $20 million sponsored research funding goal for 2026. Campus leadership will encourage more interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, making it more of a team sport than an individual one, Dunn said. CU Denver’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution also will grow research opportunities and reputation.

From UCCS, Jessi Smith – associate vice chancellor for research, research integrity officer and professor of psychology – said the campus aims for $14 million in sponsored research funding in 2026. The figure matches the current three-year average.

Recent cybersecurity initiatives are elevating research at UCCS, Smith said. Cybersecurity-affiliated researchers secured 40% of last year’s research funding. Partnerships – such as the recently announced agreement with the U.S. Space Force – and collaborations across CU campuses bode well for the future.

One such collaboration revolves around national security and intelligence. CU Boulder’s Center for National Security Initiatives addresses advanced capability needs of the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Intelligence Community with leading-edge, high-impact research. Researchers’ work in space medicine at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, manufacturing at CU Denver and cybersecurity at UCCS heighten the impact.

Another intercampus effort, the AB Nexus, teams CU Anschutz and CU Boulder. Terri Fiez, vice chancellor for research and innovation at CU Boulder, and Thomas Flaig, vice chancellor for research at CU Denver l Anschutz Medical Campus, both touted last year’s impressive launch. The initiative awarded $1.2 million to 16 project teams in its first year, and aims to grow external funding by $29 million by 2024.

Flaig, also professor and Robert Rifkin Endowed Chair in the Division of Medical Oncology at the CU School of Medicine, said CU Anschutz’s climb in sponsored research funding from $599 million last year to over $650 million this year represents a “great national validation of what we’re doing,” and sets up a 2026 goal of $825 million. The campus also will track the number of patients served by CU Anschutz clinical faculty, who provided care to over 600,000 in the 2020-21 fiscal year and now aim for over 700,000 patients served in 2023.

CU Boulder achieved $679 million in sponsored research funding for 2020-21 and aims for $800 million in 2026, Fiez said. NASA funding of $149 million led the current year’s lofty total, while National Science Foundation funding – “a metric of your quality,” she said – reached $111 million. Campus leaders expect national security research at the campus to boost future funding totals. Read more in CU Boulder Today.

See slides from the research presentation here.

Administrators plan presentations on other aspects of the systemwide strategic plan, its goals and metrics at future Board of Regents meetings.