Commonwealth Research and Technology Strategic Roadmap Profile: VCU

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a premier urban, public research university focused on academic success. In 2013, U.S. News & World Report named VCU one of the nation's "up and coming" universities, recognizing the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus, and facilities.

Nationally, VCU ranks in the top 50 public research universities according to the Center for Measuring University Performance, especially in the areas of faculty awards, doctorates granted, and the number of postdocs. VCU boasts 33 graduate and first-professional programs ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the best in the nation, with two ranked No. 1 (Nurse Anesthesia and Sculpture).

Through its strategic plan, Quest for Distinction, VCU works to meet the demands of diverse populations through impactful research, rigorous study, and extensive community engagement. The university enrolls the most diverse student body in Virginia, with more than 31,000 students, and offers 222 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, first-professional, and certificate programs.

VCU is made up of 13 schools and one college in downtown Richmond, with branch campuses in Doha, Qatar; Northern Virginia; Charles City County, Virginia; and the Stony Point area of Richmond.

The VCU Medical Center -- Virginia's most comprehensive academic medical center -- offers state-of-the-art care in more than 200 specialties. It serves as the regional referral center and is the region's only Level 1 Trauma Center. In 2013, U.S. News & World Report named the VCU Medical Center a No. 1 hospital in Virginia for the second year in a row.

Research Environment

VCU's sponsored programs support has nearly doubled in the past decade, with a research portfolio of more than $248 million in FY2013. VCU is one of only 28 public universities with academic medical centers to be designated by the Carnegie Foundation as "Community Engaged" with "Very High Research Activity". According to National Science Foundation (NSF) statistics, VCU ranked 101th in total R&D expenditures and 81st in federal R&D expenditures in FY2012.

The majority of VCU's 2013 extramural funding came from federal sources, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ($79 million), the Department of Education (DOE) ($9 million), NSF ($7 million), and the Department of Defense (DOD) ($5 million). Private funders awarded more than $61 million.

The VCU research enterprise supports student and faculty in a broad range of disciplines, including interpretive arts, drug development, nanotechnology, macroeconomics, public policy, biotechnology, and others. Centers and institutes of excellence also advance the university's research mission. The VCU Office of Research provides a full range of assistance and direction to faculty in securing extramural funding.

Research Strengths

VCU's research excellence has been buoyed by the commitment to interdisciplinary approaches, the university's investment in its research infrastructure, and the concomitant growth of the sponsored research budget. Representative assets include:

Translational Research

VCU's Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) received a $20 million Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from NIH, making VCU the first and only academic health center in Virginia to join a national consortium of more than 60 research centers sponsored by the NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). The CCTR supports novel research methods in three areas of strength: substance abuse, women's health, and rehabilitation science.


The VCU Massey Cancer Center is one of only two National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers in the Commonwealth. Scientists collaborate on interdisciplinary research programs in five core areas: Cancer Cell Signaling, Cancer Molecular Genetics, Cancer Prevention and Control, Developmental Therapeutics, and Radiation Biology and Oncology.


The VCU Parkinson's and Movement Disorders Center combines translational laboratory-based research, clinical evaluation and treatment, and education and outreach to provide a coordinated approach for developing strategies that combat movement disorders and neurodegenerative disorders.

The Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics (VIPBG) facilitates the development of a multidisciplinary, integrated research program in genetic epidemiology of psychiatric illness and human behavior. Part of the VIPBG facility is devoted to a molecular genetics laboratory, capable of high-throughput genotyping. VIPBG also houses state-of-the-art research and data analysis computational resources.

Traumatic Brain Injury and Rehabilitation

VCU received a $62 million grant from the U.S. DOD and Veterans Affairs to oversee a national research consortium of universities, hospitals, and clinics that will study what happens to service members and veterans who suffer mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions.

The VCU Center for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering (VCU-CERSE) brings together researchers, clinicians, rehabilitation specialists, and academicians to promote research, education, physical medicine and rehabilitation services, and clinical care for America's veterans, children, and adults with disabilities.

The VCU Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (VCU-RRTC) serves as a center of national excellence, providing resources for professionals, individuals with disabilities, and their representatives.

Engineering for Healthcare

CERSE's program in rehabilitation engineering focuses on design, development, and the use of state-of-the-art human technology interfaces in the operation of assistive technologies, including eye- and head-tracking controls, motion-activated controls, voice-activated controls, and related activities.

The VCU School of Engineering houses the Institute for Engineering and Medicine, the Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center, and the Nanomaterials Characterization facility, as well as the Translational Research Innovation Projects facility at BioTech One.

The cross-disciplinary faculty in the School of Engineering collaborate with medical, dental, and pharmacy faculty in orthopaedic biomechanics, biomaterials, cellular mechanics and tissue engineering, cardiac electrophysiology, artificial heart technologies, medical imaging, aerosol particle drug delivery, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and rehabilitation engineering.

Life Sciences

The VCU Inger and Walter Rice Rivers Center for Environmental Life Sciences provides a site for VCU researchers as well as scientists from other institutions and agencies to conduct research on a wide variety of topics, such as the science and policy of large rivers and their fringing riparian and wetland landscapes.


VCU Innovation Gateway

The VCU Innovation Gateway's mission is to facilitate commercialization of university inventions; support university research through collaborative agreements; foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the university; and provide regional economic development and new venture creation.

Formerly known as VCU Tech Transfer, the office is now responsible for commercializing VCU research, enhancing the overall culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at VCU, and contributing to the growth of the region's innovation ecosystem.

The main functions of the Innovation Gateway are:

  • Technology commercialization
  • Contracts and agreements in support of research
  • Industry collaborations and partnerships
  • Entrepreneurship and new ventures
  • Economic development

VCU Squared

Innovation Gateway collaborated with VCU da Vinci Center to develop and launch VCU Venture Creation University, dubbed VCU Squared. This university-wide initiative is focused on promoting entrepreneurship by continuously evaluating VCU's entrepreneurial environment, developing new programs, and coordinating related activities throughout the university. The team also works to understand the regional environment and collaborate with external partners so that VCU and the local business communities can leverage available resources and expertise. The VCU Squared team works to enhance the culture of entrepreneurship at VCU and harness the talent of its student, alumni, and research community.