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La. colleges, universities need to leverage research funds better to spur more innovation, PAR report says

Louisiana’s higher education institutions need to be more efficient with the research funds they spend in order to spur innovation in the state’s economy and bring more new ideas to the marketplace, the head of the Public Affairs Research Council said today.

Robert Travis Scott, speaking to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, unveiled a new PAR report with a lengthy list of suggestions for the state’s universities to find better ways to maximize their research output to help grow the local economy. The list includes appointing a designated state leader for innovation in Louisiana and revamping the state Board of Regents’ Support Fund—constitutionally dedicated for higher education research—to better ensure they flow to research programs and not programs such as the arts and individual scholarships.

“University R&D should not be researched just for knowledge enhancement alone,” Scott said. “We basically want to make it so that we can have some economic impact through our higher education system.”

PAR’s report says it’s not about how much money the institutions have—it’s how much they do with the dollars on hand.

Of the state’s higher education institutions, Tulane University ranked first in research and development expenses with $152 million in fiscal year 2012, followed by LSU’s Baton Rouge campus with nearly $150 million. However, Tulane ranked only No. 103 in the nation in R&D spending, and LSU sat at No. 104, according to the PAR report.

On the other hand, Louisiana Tech University was ninth in the state with $26.5 million in R&D spending in 2012. But for new inventions discovered for every $10 million spent, the Ruston institution ranked first in the state and ninth in the country, with a rate of 10.5 inventions per $10 million spent, the PAR report says. Meanwhile, Tulane sat at No. 98 in the nation with 3.6, and LSU is No. 145 at 2.5.

“The outputs from research and development at Louisiana universities has been disappointingly low, even when adjusted for the amount of research dollars that have been invested,” Scott said.

Read the full PAR report.

Robert Stewart

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