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Deeply concerned about major federal budgets cuts to research and higher education at a time when other nations are steadily increasing investments in those areas, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt today joined more than 160 other university presidents and chancellors in calling on leaders in Washington to close what they call the “innovation deficit.”

In an open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress published as an advertisement today in Washington’s Politico newspaper, the university leaders wrote that closing the innovation deficit – the widening gap between needed and actual investments in research and education – must be a national imperative. They noted that investments in those areas lead to the types of innovation and new technologies that power the nation’s economy, create jobs and reduce the budget deficit while ensuring the United States maintains its role as global leader.

Carolina faculty attracted $777.8 million in research funding in fiscal 2013, an increase of nearly $11 million from last year. About 70.5 percent, or $548 million, came from the federal government. UNC-Chapel Hill faculty research directly funds about 4,000 full-time jobs in North Carolina and creates more than 13,000 jobs across the state.

Carolina is bucking the national trends; many campuses around the country have seen declines in research funding.

“But this extraordinary place has actually seen an increase in its research, and that’s a real tribute to the work the faculty are doing to improve lives and to make North Carolina known as a global leader in research and development,” Folt said. “This is a vital source of jobs. It’s a key driver of North Carolina’s innovation based economy and it should be an attractor to the state for many people and businesses in the future.”

According to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics, each $1 million spent on research creates 17.25 jobs in the economy. Such groundbreaking research has led to life-saving vaccines, lasers, MRI, touchscreens, GPS, the Internet, and many other advances that have improved lives and generated entire new sectors of our economy.

The university leaders’ initiative comes as Congress prepares to take up annual funding bills, the debt limit and spending cuts forced by sequestration. Instead of cutting federal research funding, Congress should make targeted investments in research and higher education, the leaders write, because they would be key sources of long-term economic growth and fiscal stability: “Investments in research and education are not inconsistent with long-term deficit reduction; they are vital to it.”

The universities represented in the letter are all members of the Association of American Universities and/or the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. Carolina is a member of the AAU, a group of 62 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada.

Read the open letter.

Published July 31, 2013.