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Stocking Stuffers for Scientists
And Happy Holidays!!
Hello and Happy Holidays from FedInvent,
First, here are the links to the latest FedInvent Reports.
The Count So Far
There is one more Tuesday and two more Thursdays until the final round of patent grants and pre-grant published patent applications for 2022 are published. For the calendar year 2022 to date, there are 6,912 taxpayer-funded patents and 7,976 patent applications. It looks like 2022 will come in at over 7,000 patents and over 8,000 published patent applications.
The FedInvent Project is almost two years old. We have detailed patent information for 2021 and 2022. This year we can do a year-over-year analysis. We're looking forward to seeing what we learn from the 2022 data. Please stay tuned.
Stocking Stuffers for University Researchers
The holiday season is a good time for gift-giving. FedInvent turned its attention to taxpayer gift-giving. In the world of taxpayer-funded innovation, the federal government bestows a lot of gifts. The best gifts are billions of dollars in R&D grants and the massive infrastructure of innovation facilities and equipment funded by the government. Some of the most important contributions are the stocking stuffer grants.
The stocking stuffer grants are more tangible taxpayer-funded grants to researchers to buy equipment and instrumentation to support their work. Scientists and researchers need tools to measure things, to see things, and to analyze things. They need lots of fast, high-performance computers to integrate all of the metrology and metrics to figure out what's going on. After all, a lab without equipment is an office. Getting equipment into the hands of students and scientists is an integral part of the federal innovation ecosphere.
DOD is one of the departments that funds these stocking stuffer equipment and instrumentation grants to scientists. DOD's Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) program funds equipment designed to advance research and educate scientists and engineers in areas critical to national defense and the military via a merit competition. These grant recipients need a very big stocking.
But first, some context.
The federal government funds 41% of basic research in the United States. The 2023 budget request included $564.544 billion for basic research, up $13.952 billion (33%) from the FY2022. While the Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health receive more than half (56%) of all federal funding for basic research, DOD is the primary funder of basic research critical to national defense.
According to the Congressional Research Service, DOD provides a significant amount of funding for basic research in the following scientific areas of specialization:
65% of basic research in aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical engineering.
58% of electrical, electronic, and communications engineering basic research.
58% of industrial and manufacturing engineering.
49% of mechanical engineering.
48% of computer and information science.
44% of materials science research.
41% metallurgy and materials engineering.
DOD spends over half of its basic research budget at universities.
Cool Stuff from DOD
The DOD Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) improves the capabilities of accredited United States (U.S.) higher education institutions to conduct research and educate scientists and engineers in areas critical to national defense. DURIP provides funds exclusively for the acquisition of research equipment or instrumentation. The program is administered jointly by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the Army Research Office (ARO), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). AFOSR funded 655 grants. ARO funded 68 grants, and ONR funded 66.
From October 2008 through the beginning of the 2023 government fiscal year, October 1, 2022, through December 2022, the DOD DURIP program has spent over $250 million n equipment and instrumentation acquisitions for over 750 projects. Nineteen DURIP awards valued at over $1 million. The average equipment acquisition grant for individual projects was $335,719.00.
Data enthusiasts can access the details using the links below.
The details on the program spending and projects are here.
A sample of the projects from 2021-2023 is here. The project sample list leans heavily toward gear for work in quantum information systems and measuring really tiny things.
Who Got the Money?
The top five DURIP projects by funding are:
The University of Illinois received $1.8 million for Laser and Gas Chromatography Systems for Studies of Excited Molecular Complexes and Phased Array of.
Wright State University received $1.3 million with an additional $403,000 in joint funding from Wright State University. Total funding for the equipment acquisition was $1.7 million for the Joint DOD and Wright State Center of Neuroimaging and Neuro-Evaluation of Cognitive Technologies (CoNNECT). The project funded state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging technology.
Princeton University received $1.7 million in funding for The Instrumentation of Macromolecule File Deposition. The four major macromolecules are proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids.
The University of Houston received $1.5 million in funding for Tools to Study Interfaces for Superconducting, Thermoelectric, and Magnetic Materials. Important aspects of quantum information systems, The full budget for the equipment purchase is on page 4 of 8 here — because of some joint funding, the total budget hit $1.8 million.
The University of Southern California received $1.5 million in funding for Growth Capabilities for Emerging Compounds Semiconductors and Semimetals. The funding went to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
What were the five projects with the lowest funding?
University of California San Diego received $30,000 for Imaging and High-Performance Computing for Low Energy Bioinspired-Information Processing. This funding was for the instrumentation and equipment for the university's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant to study memory capacity and energy efficiency in the brain.
Georgia Tech Research Corporation received $50,000 for High-Speed Linear Actuator For High Thrust-To-Power Hall Thruster Investigation. Hall Thrusters are used for propelling Earth-orbiting satellites and deep-space robotic vehicles.
Gonzaga University received $53,095 for a Keyence Confocal Microscope to Investigate Eposy Segregation for Acrylate/Epoxy Advanced Matrix C-Fiber Composite. (Digital confocal microscopes are not cheap.) American taxpayers also funded the world's most expensive and most powerful microscope. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab owns a $27 million electron microscope. Its ability to make images to a resolution half the width of a hydrogen atom made it the most powerful microscope in the world.
The State University of New York received $53,491 for Novel Methods for Satellite Attitude Maneuver Detection.
The University of California at Riverside received $53,580 for ARF Laser For Deep Ultraviolet Photoluminesence in Ultra-Wide Bandgap Semiconductors. The argon fluoride laser (ArF laser) is used in high-resolution photolithography machines, a critical technology for microelectronic chip manufacturing. Want to do advanced semiconductor production design? You need one.
The Funding Numbers — Contract Totals
The Top Ten Universities
The top ten university DURIP grant recipients received 35% of the grants.
You can see the complete list of grant recipients organized by university here.
DOD Funding Its Own Universities
DOD also funds DURIP grants to its own military universities. In 2021 there were three awards to fund work at the three DOD military academies, the Air Force Academy (USAFA), the US Naval Academy (USNA), and the U.S. Military Academy (USMA). Here are the three projects DOD funded for its universities.
Air Force Academy
The AFOSR funded U.S. Air Force Academy principal investigator Francis Chun's proposal titled Falcon Telescope Network for Space Domain Awareness Research.
The Falcon Telescope Network is a global network of small aperture (20-inch) telescopes developed by the Center for Space Situational Awareness Research (CSSAR) in the Department of Physics at the United States Air Force Academy in collaboration with its educational partners. The telescope network will be shared with U.S. and international university partners for undergraduate space situational awareness, astronomy research education, and community Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) outreach."
There is no funding information about this project. But this is not the first grant to support USAFA's telescope grant. In 2017, USAFA received a grant for $545,000 to support its proposal USAFA 1-Meter-Class Satellite-Tracking Telescope for Space Situational Awareness Research. The 2021 grant looks like a follow-on to the earlier work.
United States Military Academy
During the GFY 2021 round of DURIP grants, the U.S. Military Academy's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science faculty received a DURIP award. Colonel Christopher Korpela, the director of the Robotics Research Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, submitted the proposal for equipment for "Tactical Autonomous Maneuver Testbed for Multi-Agent Air-Ground Teams." The Office of Naval Research (ONR) funded the Westpoint project. (No, that's not a typo. It was ONR.)
United States Naval Academy
The Naval Academy received a $666,000 award for its Aerosol Jet Printing for Microfabrication and 3D-Printed Electronics proposal. The academy used the funding to purchase an aerosol jet printer (AJP) that will benefit research across seven Naval Academy departments. These departments include Electrical and Computer Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Aerospace Engineering; Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering; Weapons-Robotics-Control Engineering; Chemistry and Physics.
The Naval Academy website notes, Aerosol jet printing is a new, disruptive technology in direct-write printing, additive manufacturing, and microfabrication. It will enable the creation of intelligent devices with increased geometric freedom, mass customization, and tool-less manufacture; a game changer for our midshipmen teaching and research activities."
Equipment But Not Patents
DURIP grants rarely show up as government funding on patents and patent applications. So far, we've only found 15 patents that cite DURIP funding in the government interest statement. (We'll keep looking.)
On the Numbers
We used the USA Spending contract data to tabulate the number of projects, the spending amounts, and the average project amount by year. There is some variation in how grant transactions are counted year over year. So we used the data we could validate at the contract level to determine the funding numbers.
A NOAA Shout-Out
While digging around to find information on research facilities and equipment funded by the U.S. taxpayer, we came across the number the Congressional Research Service uses in its R&D budget document.
In government fiscal year 2022, the federal government budgeted $4.611 billion for R&D facilities and equipment. We haven't had time to dig through the 4,000 pages of the omnibus federal spending bill to see what the 2023 funding is and what new things the feds will be paying for this year.
We also came across this:
Working Boats: An Inside Look at Ten Amazing Watercraft by Tom Crestodina
One of the Working Boats featured in the book is the NOAA Research Ship. The Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) has a fleet of 15 operational ships and an annual budget of $436.8 million.
NOAA and its Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) maintain a fleet of specialized ships and aircraft that gather oceanographic, atmospheric, hydrographic, and fisheries data.
OMAO also provides coordination, support, and guidance for uncrewed marine and aircraft systems (UxS) across NOAA through the Autonomous Uncrewed Technology Operations (AUTO) program. NOAA uses UxS for seafloor and habitat mapping, ocean exploration, marine mammal and fishery assessments, emergency response, and at-sea observations.
Working Boats is a great book for kids and patentistas alike. NOAA should buy it for its staff as the official agency stocking stuffer. NOAA is featured on the cover. Why not?
We’ll be back in January with new newsletters. In the meantime, we’ll update the FedInvent Reports. You can access them using this link:
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Thanks for reading FedInvent.
The FedInvent Team
FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere, taxpayer money, and the inventions it pays for. FedInvent is a work in progress. Please reach out if you have questions or suggestions. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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