By Satish K. Tripathi

For nearly 60 years, federal funding of academic research has been the backbone of U.S. innovation.

This began post-World War II when Vannevar Bush, scientific adviser to President Harry Truman, submitted “Science, the Endless Frontier: A Report to the President on a Program for Postwar Scientific Research.” The report concluded the federal government should fund basic academic research as vital to the nation’s health, security and economic prosperity.

This model has played a fundamental role in the development of the American research university and has led to critical breakthroughs in medicine, security, communications and countless other areas to improve the well-being of countries around the world. The result: The United States has been the world’s leading innovator for 60 years.

But our continued global leadership is not a foregone conclusion. To remain at the forefront of a crowded field – indeed, simply to remain competitive – the United States must continue to make robust investments in academic research, even during austere budget climates.

An across-the-board cut to federal agencies, like the sequester scheduled for January, would undermine the tremendous strides that U.S. researchers have made in driving the country’s knowledge-based economy. I am hopeful that Congress will work together in the lame-duck session to reach a solution that preserves continued investment in university-led innovation.

The benefits of federally supported scientific research extend far beyond university laboratories. This research reaches directly into the private sector while advancing the public good, locally and globally. It is innovative research that is fueling a thriving knowledge economy in Western New York.

In the health care field alone, the spinoff companies and life-saving medicines resulting from medical innovation are transforming our region into a world leader in health care discovery and delivery.

The University at Buffalo’s network of multidisciplinary research has translated into more than 165 patents and has launched more than 65 companies, from the life sciences sector to environmental engineering, information technology and advanced manufacturing.

And the discoveries stemming from UB research contribute to cures, inventions and technologies transforming daily life around the globe.

Without federal funding, UB and our fellow research universities would not be able to sustain this vital impact. Federal support remains by far the leading source of funding for university innovation, with approximately 60 percent of all U.S. university research expenditures funded by the federal government.

Our nation and our world need academic research to thrive. This is why it has been, and must remain, a federal investment priority.

Satish K. Tripathi is president of the University at Buffalo.