Four California universities rank in the top 10 nationally for research spending

Students in blue lab coats work with equipment.
UC San Diego spent $1.4 billion on research and development in fiscal 2020.
(UC San Diego)

UC San Diego spent $1.4 billion in fiscal 2020.


Four California universities — UCLA, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco and Stanford — finished in the top 10 nationally in research spending in fiscal 2020, according to newly released figures from the National Science Foundation. No other state had more than one school in that elite bracket.

UC San Francisco, a graduate level and professional education campus dedicated to health sciences, ranked third nationally with $1.6 billion in spending, UC San Diego ranked sixth; UCLA and Stanford were seventh and 10th.

UC San Diego spent $1.4 billion on research and development, more than half of which went to the health sciences, including money devoted to helping develop and test vaccines and drugs to fight COVID-19.

UCSD, which was founded in 1960, is the youngest school in the top 10. Harvard, founded in 1636, is the oldest.

Johns Hopkins University finished first with $3.1 billion, a figure almost $1.5 billion higher than the runner-up, Michigan. The Maryland school is the perpetual leader because it operates the famed Applied Physics Lab, which heavily serves the Defense Department — especially the Navy — and NASA.


Collectively, the nation’s academic institutions spent $86.4 billion in 2020. That was a 3.3% increase ($2.7 billion) over the previous year.

Top 10 schools in research spending

Johns Hopkins University: $3,110,494,000
University of Michigan: $1,673,862,000
UC San Francisco: $1,651,073,000
University of Pennsylvania: $1,579,364,000
University of Washington: $1,456,902,000
UC San Diego: $1,403,735,000
UCLA: $1,392,941,000
University of Wisconsin: $1,363,931,000
Harvard: $1,239,983,000
Stanford: $1,203,950,000
Source: NSF

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