Research Economy

With world-class research facilities and sustained investment supporting innovation, Boulder is a global leader in research and development and the commercialization of new technologies.

University of Colorado Boulder

The University of Colorado Boulder is at the center of research in Colorado and nationally, and its presence has a direct economic impact on Boulder. According to the most recent University of Colorado Economic Impact Study, research funding for University of Colorado Boulder totaled $684 million in fiscal year 2022-23 and CU’s economic contribution to the state ammounts to $10.8 billion.

The University of Colorado Boulder is one of only 34 U.S. public research universities invited to join the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region. CU-Boulder is also home to five Nobel laureates, four National Medal of Science winners and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

The Venture Partners at CU Boulder is the conduit for research commercialization by working with researchers to pursue, protect, package and license to businesses the intellectual property generated from research at CU. From CU intellectual property, 170 startups have been formed. These companies are taking risks to create innovative technological impacts.

The University of Colorado Boulder collaborates in a research triangle that includes universities, businesses, and federal laboratories. These concerted efforts, with support from state and federal funds, help ensure Boulder’s economic vitality. From direct expenditures and spinoff technologies to collaborative research and an educated workforce, the University of Colorado strengthens Boulder’s economy.

Federal Labs

“Colorado's federal labs help foster the innovation that fuels our state and the nation's economy," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said. "Leveraging the labs' research and technology with the state's innovative entrepreneurial spirit creates a strong foundation for Colorado's business ecosytem. We are proud of the extraordinary advancements coming from the research in Colorado and will continue to support our federal laboratories and their world-class workforce."

Colorado is home to over 30 federally funded labs, with more than half in Boulder. According to the most recent CO-LABS Economic Impact Study, the state’s federally funded labs contributed $2.3 billion and employed nearly 8,000 people in 2012. In Boulder and Boulder County, the federally funded labs contributed $743.2 million and employed nearly 3,600 people.

Some of Boulder’s federally funded research and lab facilities are world leaders in climate, weather, geo-physical and renewable energy research. Others have a strong presence in measurements and standards, telecommunications science, and viral and bacterial diseases.

Federally funded labs in Boulder include:

Private Sector Research

As a result of federal research activity, industry crossover and access to world-class talent in Boulder, there is also a great deal of private research. Boulder is a leading research hub within the industry areas of aerospace, pharmaceutical, and clean energy. Much of this is conducted in conjunction with federal or university initiatives. For example, Ball Aerospace and Soma Logic commercialize much of the cutting-edge findings produced in the federal labs.


CO-LABS is a coalition of federally funded scientific laboratories, universities, businesses, local governments, and legislators who have come together to establish Colorado as a global leader in research, technology, and technology transfer. CO-LABS activities include:

  • Educating the public, businesses, educational organizations and governmental entities about the value of the federally funded laboratories
  • Facilitating interactions between Colorado’s federal labs, universities, and its businesses to enhance the potential for new partnerships, technology transfer, and job creation
  • Collecting and analyzing data to understand the scientific and economic value of federally funded labs in Colorado
  • Supporting retention and expansion of Colorado’s scientific resources.

Many of the labs make their testing equipment available to businesses and offer cooperative research agreements. CO-LABS can connect businesses with the right person at the right lab.

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