BLOG: Record-breaking Grants & Contracts Power UK Innovation in 2020

FY20 awards total: $429,224,037
Source: University of Kentucky Office of Sponsored Projects Administration (OSPA) database

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 5, 2020) -- For the first time in University of Kentucky (UK) history, faculty received $429.2 million in competitive research awards last fiscal year. This is a 3% increase from FY19, which itself was a record-breaking 25% increase from the previous year.

Federal grants and contracts, which are highly competitive, totaled $272.2 million, 63.4% of UK’s total awards in FY20. Federal awards increased by 13% overall, with notable increases in the following agencies: 

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) +3%
  • Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), non-NIH Agencies +38%
  • Department of Energy +21%
  • Department of Defense +266%
  • Department of Education +38%
  • NASA +30%
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) +9.7%

This growth includes continued funding for the $87 million HEALing Communities in Kentucky award from the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths by 40 percent in three years. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the HEALing Communities team fast-tracked naloxone distribution to Kentucky jails to reach soon-to-be released inmates, whom research shows are at increased risk of overdose.

The tenacity and persistence of UK researchers, many of whom saw substantial disruptions to their research efforts from March to June 2020, yielded new grants and contracts totaling $8.7 million to address the COVID-19 pandemic. From membrane-based face masks to capture and inactivate the virus on contact, to special antibodies made by alpacas that could help us understand the novel coronavirus and potentially develop treatments to protect people from infection, UK investigators are using their unparalleled expertise and creativity to address this pandemic. 

In total for FY20, UK successfully competed for 1,710 grants and contracts, submitted by 771 researchers to more than 580 funding agencies.

Many of our colleges saw significant research funding increases: 

  • Gatton College of Business & Economics +37%
  • College of Health Sciences +43%
  • College of Nursing +46%
  • College of Pharmacy +36%
  • College of Public Health +26%
  • College of Social Work +125%

The sheer volume of research activity, and the success of our researchers to garner funding for their impactful and innovative studies, speaks to the significance of the research mission. We are empowering our faculty, staff and students to effectively compete for funding for their best and brightest ideas. Now more than ever, the power of research to improve our future is evident. Research is what will get us out of this pandemic, and research is the key to improving lives in Kentucky and beyond.

To learn more about the innovative research happening across campus, visit

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.