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Iowa State, University of Iowa set new funding records for fiscal year 2021

Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have both released their external funding records for the budget year that ended June 30, and both universities surpassed their previous funding records.

Iowa State University attracted $559.1 million in external funding for the fiscal year that ended June 30, breaking the previous record of $509.2 million set in fiscal year 2018.

The University of Iowa reported double-digit percentage spikes in several funding categories, starting with its 23 percent jump in total external funding, from last year’s record-setting $666.2 million to $818 million for fiscal year 2021.

Research related to COVID-19 continued to receive significant external funding in FY2021, but public and private support also spurred fresh explorations in the areas of medicine, the environment, math, history, the arts, and the humanities. 

Here are some of the research projects that received funding support this year:


  • The UI Carver College of Medicine received $2.7 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore the role played by the RABL6A-PP2A cancer pathways in neuroendocrine tumor.
  • The CLAS Department of Mathematics was awarded $2.1 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand training and research seminars in the department’s geometry and topology group.
  • The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry, earned a $363,731 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to explore the relationship between bioaerosols and the formation of clouds and storms in a collaboration with colleagues at Colorado State University. Bioaerosols are airborne biological particles, including pollen, fungal spores, and soil bacteria.  


  • The Agriculture and Rural Communities (ARA) Wireless Living Lab for Smart and Connected Rural Communities recently won a five-year grant of $16 million. The project will test and develop affordable, high-capacity rural broadband technology.
  • A project called COALESCE has won a five-year, $7 million Cyber-Physical Systems Frontier award. Researchers are applying layers of technologies – including sensors, machine learning, artificial intelligence, small robots and drones – that could allow farmers to fertilize, weed and cull single plants in a field, rather than relying on broad measures such as heavy machinery and broadcast spraying.
  • With more than $900,000 in grants, Iowa State researchers are using their expertise in graphene-based biosensors to develop better, cheaper, quicker and more accessible testing for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Iowa State, University of Iowa set new funding records for fiscal year 2021 | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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