UA research activity is economic driver for the state

When we think of the value of research for Alaska, we’re usually talking about the knowledge gained from the research activity. Understanding more about Alaska helps inform policy decisions that impact the state economy, its institutions, communities, and residents. Research activity helps the state prepare for and respond to disasters and emergencies – like the 2018 earthquake or the COVID-19 pandemic. It also drives innovation and economic growth.

In a July 2021 report, Dr. Mouhcine Guettabi explored the “University of Alaska Economic Research Enterprise.” He looked at the amount of external funding University of Alaska researchers bring to the state, the number of jobs their research creates, and the overall impact to the state economy.

UA researchers do an exceptional job of generating external funding, especially compared to the national average. That’s measured by the “multiplier effect.” For each dollar in general funding a UAF researcher received from the state in 2020, an additional $5.6 was generated from external resources. UAA researchers generated an additional $6.33 for every dollar received. Nationally, the multiplier has trended downward over the last twenty years, wrote Guettabi. In 2019, the multiplier was 3.95, meaning that each internal dollar of university funding generated total research funding of $2.95.

It’s been important to leverage this external funding because the amount of “seed money” for UA research activities from the state (unrestricted general funding) has gone down, especially since the drop in oil prices in 2014. In fact, in 2020 this Unrestricted General Funding (UGF) was lower than it was ten years ago. UA researchers have worked hard to bring in highly competitive grants from federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. This has more than offset the decline in UGF.

Since most of the money funding UA research comes from sources outside the state, the research enterprise “is no different from the other basic industries such as oil and gas, mining or fisheries that drive the state economy,” wrote Guettabi. “The infusion of research dollars into Alaska leads to economic expansion and in the absence of these dollars, the economy would be smaller.”

Guettabi estimated the total economic impact of UA research activities to the state at $242 million dollars in 2020. This impact is measured by the number of jobs supported, total payroll produced, and business sales generated in the state by research dollars.

Read the report
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